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X HE following sheets first appeared in a periodical work called The Inquirer. 
They are now republished without undergoing any substantial alteration. The 
author however thinks it due to himself to state, that he would have materially 
qualified those parts of' his essay which speak of' the improved Condition of the Slaves 
in the West Indies since the abolition, had he then been acquainted with the 
recent evidence obtained upon that subject. Kis present conviction certainly 
is, that he has overrated that improvement, and that in point of fact Negro 
Slavery is, in its main and leading feature, the same system which it was 
when the Abolition controversy first commenced. 

It is possible there may be some, who, having glanced over the Title Page 
of this little work, may be startled at the word Emancipation. I wish to in- 
form such, that Mr. Dundas, afterwards Lord Melville, an acute Man, and a 
Friend to the Planters, proposed this very measure to Piirliament in the year 
1792. We see, then, that the word Emancipation cannot be charged with 
Novelty. It contains now no ?iew ideas. It contains now nothing but what 
has been thought practicable, and even desirable to be accomplished. The Emanci- 
pation which I desire is such an Emancipation only, as I firmly believe to be 
compatible not only with the due subordination and happiness of the labourer, 
but with the permanent interests of his employer. 

I wish also to say, in case any thing like an undue warmth of feeling on 
my part should be discovered in the course of the work, that I had no inten- 
tion of being warm against the West Indians as a body. I know that there 
are many estimable men among them living in England, who deserve every 
desirable praise for having sent over instructions to their Agents in the West 
Indies from time to time in behalf of their wretched Slaves. And yet, alas? 
even these, the Masters themselves, have not had influence enough to secure the 
fulfilment of their own instructions upon their own estates ; nor will they, so long 
as the present system continues. They will never be able to carry their meri- 
torious designs into effect against Prejudice, Law, and Custom. If this be not 
so, how happens it that you cannot see the Slaves, belonging to such esti- 
mable men, without marks of the whip upon their backs} The truth is, that $& 
long as overseers, drivers, and others, are entrusted with the use of arbitrary power „ 
and so long as Negro-evidence is invalid against the white oppressor, and so long 
as human nature continues to be what it is, no order from the Master for the 
better personal treatment of the Slave will or can be obeyed. It is against the 
system then, and not against the West Indians as a body, that I am warm, 
should I be found so unintentionally, in the present work. 

One word or two now on another part of the subject. A great noise will 
be made, no doubt, when the question of Emancipation comes to be agkated, 
about the immense property at stake,! mean the property of the Planters; — and 
others connected with them. This is all well. Their interests ought un^ 


doubledly to be attended to. But I hope and trust, that, if property is to be 
attended to on one side of the question, it will be equally attended to on the 
other. This is but common justice. If you put into one scale the gold and 
jewels of the Planters, you are bound to put into the other the liberty of 
<300,000 of .the African race ; for every man's liberty is his own property by the 
laws of Nature, Reason, Justice, and Religion ; and, if it be not so with our 
West Indian Slaves, it is only because they have been, and continue to be, de- 
prived of it by force. And here let us consider for a moment which of these two 
different sorts of property is of the greatest value. Let us suppose an English 
gentleman to be seized by ruffians on the banks of the Thames (and why 
not a gentleman when African princes have been so served?) and hurried away 
to a land (and Algiers is such a land, for instance), where white persons are 
held as Slaves. Now this gentleman has not been used to severe labour 
(neither has the African in his own country) ; and being therefore unable, 
though he does his best, to please his master, he is roused to further exertion 
by the zchip. Perhaps he takes this treatment indignantly. This only secures 
him a severer punishment. I say nothing of his being badly fed, or lodged, or 
clothed. If he should have a wife and daughters with him, how much more 
cruel would be his fate! to see the tender skins of these lacerated by the 
whip! to see them torn from him, with a knowledge, that they are going to 
be compelled to submit to the lust of an overseer ! and no redress/ " How long," 
says he, " is this frightful system, which tears my body in pieces and excruciates 
my soul, which kills me by inches, and which involves my family in unspeak- 
able misery and unmerited disgrace, to continue ?" — "For ever, v replies a voice 
suddenly; "for ever, as relates to your own life^ and the life of your wife and 
daughters, and that of all their posterity." Now would not this gentleman 
give all that he had left behind him in England, and all that he had in the world 
besides, and all that he had in prospect and expectancy, to get out of this wretched 
state, though he foresaw that on his return to his own country he would be 
obliged to beg his bread for the remainder of his life? I am sure he would. 
I am sure he would instantly prefer his liberty to his gold. There would not 
be the hesitation of a moment as to the choice he would make. I hope, then, that 
if the argument of property should he urged on one side of the question, the 
argument of property {liberty) will not be overlooked on the other, but that they 
will be fairly weighed, the one against the other, and that an allowance will 
fee made as the scale shall preponderate on either side. 


X KNOW of no subject, where humanity and justice, as well as 
public and private interest, would be more intimately united than 
in that, which should recommend a mitigation of the slavery, with 
a view afterwards to the emancipation of the Negroes, wherever 
such may be held in bondage. This subject was taken up for 
consideration, so early as when the Abolition of the slave trade 
was first practically thought of, and by the very persons who first 
publicly embarked in that cause in England ; but it was at 
length abandoned by them, not on the ground that Slavery was 
less cruel, or wicked, or impolitic, than the slave trade, but for 
other reasons. In the first place there were not at that time so 
many obstacles in the way of the Abolition, as of the Emancipation 
of the Negroes. In the second place Abolition could be effected 
immediately, and with but comparatively little loss, and no danger. 
Emancipation, on the other hand, appeared to be rather a work of 
time. It was beset too with many difficulties, which required deep 
consideration, and which, if not treated with great caution and pru- 
dence, threatened the most alarming results. In the third place, it 
was supposed, that, by effecting the abolition of the slave trade, 
the axe would be laid to the root of the whole evil ; so that by cut- 
ting off the more vital part of it, the other would gradually die 
away : — for what was more reasonable than to suppose, that, when 
masters could no longer obtain Slaves from Africa or elsewhere, 
they would be compelled individually, by a sort of inevitable neces- 
sity, or a fear of consequences, or by a sense of their own interest, 
to take better care of those whom they might then have in their pos- 
sessioni What was more reasonable to suppose, than that the dif- 
ferent legislatures themselves, moved also by the same necessity, 
would immediately interfere, without even the loss of a day, and so 
alter and amend the laws relative to the treatment of Slaves, as to 

B enforce 


enforce that as a public duty, which it would be thus the private 
interest of individuals to perform? Was it not also reasonable to 
suppose that a system of better treatment, thus begun by indivi- 
duals, and enforced directly afterwards by law, would produce more 
willing as well as more able and valuable labourers than before ; 
and that this effect,, when once visible, would again lead both mas- 
ters and legislators on the score of interest to treat their slaves still 
more like men; nay, at length to give them even privileges; and 
thus to elevate their condition by degrees, till at length it would be 
no difficult task, and no mighty transition, to pass them to that most 
advantageous situation to both parties, the rank of Free Men f 

These were the three effects, which the simple measure of the 
abolition of the slave trade was expected to produce by those, who 
first espoused it, by Mr. Granville Sharp, and those who formed 
the London committee ; and by Mr. Pitt, Mr. Fox, Mr. Burke, 
Mr. Wilberforce, and others of illustrious name, who brought the 
subject before Parliament. The question then is, how have these 
fond expectations been realized ? or how many and which of these 
desirable effects have been produced ? I may answer perhaps with 
truth,, that in our own Islands, where the law of the abolition is not 
so easily evaded, or where there is less chance of obtaining new 
slaves, than in some other parts, there has been already, that is, 
since the abolition of the slave trade, a somewhat better individual 
treatment of the slaves than before. A certain care has been taken 
of them. The plough has been introduced to ease their labour. 
Indulgences have been given to pregnant women both before and 
after their delivery; premiums have been offered for the rearing of 
infants to a certain age; religious instruction has been allowed to 
many. But when I mention these instances of improvement, I 
must be careful to distinguish what I mean;— I do not intend to say, 
that there were no instances of humane treatment of the slaves be- 
fore the abolition of the slave trade. 1 know, on the other hand, 
that there were ; I know that there were planters, who introduced 
the plough upon their estates, and who much to their honour 
granted similar indulgences, premiums, and permissions to those 
now mentioned, previously to this great event. All then that I 
mean to say is this, that, independently of the common progress of 
humanity and liberal opinion, the circumstance of not being able to 
get new slaves as formerly, has had its influence upon some of our 
planters ; that it has made some of them think more; that it has 
put some of them more upon their guard ; and that there are there- 
fore, irpon the whole, more instances of good treatment of slaves by 
individuals in our Islands (though far from being as numerous as 
they ought to be) than at any former period. 

But, alas! though the abolition of the slave trade may have pro- 


fluted a somewhat better individual treatment of the slaves, and 
this also to a somewhat greater extent than formerly, not one of 
the other effects, so anxiously looked for, has been realized. The 
condition of the slaves has not yet been improved by law. It is a 
remarkable, and indeed almost an incredible fact, that no one effort 
has been made by the legislative bodies in our Islands with the real 
intention of meeting the new, the great, and the extraordinary event 
of the abolition of the slave trade. While indeed this measure was 
under discussion by the British Parliament, an attempt was made 
in several of our Islands to alter the old laws with a view, as it was 
then pretended, of providing better for the wants and personal pro- 
tection of the slaves; but it was afterwards discovered, that the 
promoters of this alteration never meant to carry it into effect. It 
was intended, by making a show of these laws, to deceive the people 
of England, and thus to prevent them from following up the great 
question of the abolition. Mr. Clappeson, one of the evidences 
examined by the House of Commons, was in Jamaica, when the 
Assembly passed their famous consolidated laws, and he told the 
House, that " he had often heard from people there, that it was 
passed because of the stir in England about the slave trade;" and 
he added, " that slaves continued to be as ill treated there since the 
passing of that act as before." Mr. Cook, another of the evidences 
examined, was long resident in the same island, and, " though he 
lived there also since the passing of the act, he knew of no legal pro- 
tection, which slaves had against injuries from their masters." Mr. 
Dalrymple war, examined to the same point for Grenada. He was 
there in 1788, when the Act for that island was passed also, called 
" An Act for the better Protection and promoting the Increase and 
Population of Slaves." He told the House, that, "while he resided 
there, the proposal in the British Parliament for the abolition of 
the slave trade was a matter of general discussion, and that he be- 
lieved, that this was a principal reason for passing it. He was of 
opinion, however, that this Act would prove ineffectual, because, 
as Negro evidence was not to be admitted, those, who chose to 
abuse their slaves, might still do it with impunity ; and people, 
who lived on terms of intimacy, would dislike the idea of becoming 
spies and informers against each other." We have the same ac- 
count of the ameliorating Act of Dominica. " This Act," says Go- 
vernor Prevost, " appears to have been considered from the day it 
was passed until this hour as a political measure to avert the interfe- 
rence of the mother country in the management of the slaves" We 
are informed also on the same authority, that the clauses of this 
Act, which had given a promise of better days, " had been wholly 
neglected." In short, the Acts passed in our different Islands for 
the pretended purpose of bettering the condition of the slaves have 

B 2 been 

been all of them most shamefully neglected ; and they remain only 
a dead letter; or they are as much a nullity, as if they had never 
existed, at the present day. 

And as our planters have done nothing yet effectively by law for 
ameliorating the condition of their slaves, so they have done no- 
thing or worse than nothing in the case of their emancipation. In 
the year 1815 Mr. Wilberforce gave notice in the House of Com- 
mons of his intention to introduce there a bill for the registration of 
slaves in the British colonies. In the following year an insurrec- 
tion broke out among some slaves in Barbadoes. Now, though 
this insurrection originated, as there was then reason to believe, in 
local of peculiar circumstances, or in circumstances which had 
often produced insurrections before, the planters chose to attri- 
bute it to the Registry Bill now mentioned. They gave out also, 
that the slaves in Jamaica and in the other islands had imbibed a 
notion, that this Bill wns to lead to their emancipation ; that, while 
this notion existed, their minds would be in an unsettled state ; 
and therefore that it was necessary that it should be done away. 
Accordingly on the 19th day of June 18 16, they moved and pro- 
cured an address from the Commons to the Prince Regent, the sub- 
stance of which was (as relates to this particular) that " His Royal 
Highness would be pleased to order all the governors of the West 
India islands to proclaim, in the most public manner, His Royal 
Highness's concern and surprise at the false and mischievous opi- 
nion, which appeared to have prevailed in some of the British co- 
lonies, — that either His Royal Highness or the British Parliament 
had sent out orders for the emancipation of the Negroes; and to di- 
rect the most effectual methods to be adopted for discountenancing 
these unfounded and dangerous impressions" Here then we have 
a proof "that in the month of June 1 8 16 the planters had no notion 
of altering the condition of their Negroes" It is also evident, that 
they have entertained no such notion since; for emancipation implies 
a preparation of the persons who are to be the subjects of so greet 
a change. It implies a previous alteration - of treatment for the 
better, and a previous alteration of customs and even of circum- 
stances, no one of which can however be really and truly effected 
without a previous change of the lazes. In fact, a progressively 
better treatment by law must have been settled as a preparatory 
and absolutely necessary work, had emancipation been intended. 
But as we have never heard of the introduction of any new laws 
to this effect, or with a view of producing this effect, in any of our 
colonies, we have an evidence, almost as clear as the sun at noon- 
day, that our planters have no notion of altering the condition of 
their Negroes, though fifteen years have elapsed since the abolition 
of the slave trade. 


But if it be true that the abolition of the slave trade has not 
produced all the effects, which the abolitionists anticipated or in- 
tended, it would appear to be their duty, unless insurmountable 
obstacles present themselves, to resume their labours : for though 
there may be upon the whole, as I have admitted, a somewhat 
better individual treatment of the slaves by their masters, arising 
out of an increased prudence in some, which has been occasioned 
by stopping the importations, yet it is true, that not only many of 
the former continue to be ill-treated by the latter, but that all may 
be so ill-treated, if the latter be so disposed. They may be ill-fed, 
hard- worked, ill-used, and wantonly and barbarously punished. 
They may be tortured, nay even deliberately and intentionally 
killed without the means of redress, or the punishment of the ag- 
gressor, so long as the evidence of a Negro is not valid against a 
white man. If a white master only take care, that no other white 
man sees him commit an atrocity of the kind mentioned, he is safe 
from the cognizance of the law* He may commit such atrocity in 
the sight of a thousand black spectators, and no harm will happen 
to him from it. In fact, the slaves in our Islands have no more real 
protection or redress from law, than when the Abolitionists first 
took up the question of the slave trade. It is evident therefore, 
that the latter have still one-half of their work to perform, and that 
it is their duty to perform it. If they were ever influenced by any 
good motives, whether of humanity, justice, or religion, to under- 
take the cause of the Negroes, they must even now be influenced 
by the same motives to continue it. If any of those disorders still 
exist, which it was their intention to cure, they cannot (if these 
are curable) retire from the course and say — there is now no further 
need of our interference. 

The first step then to be taken by the Abolitionists is to attempt 
to introduce an oitire new code of laws into our colonies. The 
treatment of the Negroes there must no longer be made to depend 
upon the presumed effects of the abolition of the slave trade. In 
deed there were persons well acquainted with Colonial concern*, 
who called the abolition but a half measure at the time when it 
was first publicly talked of. They were sure, that it would never 
of itself answer the end proposed. Mr. Steele also confessed in 
his letter to Dr. Dickson* (of both of whom more by and by), that 
" the abolition of the slave trade would be useless, unless at the 
same time the infamous lazvs, which he had pointed out, zvere re- 
pealed." Neither must the treatment of the Negroes be made to 
depend upon what may be called contingent humanity. We now 
leave in this country neither the horse, nor the ass, nor oxen, nor 

* Sec Dickson's Mitigation of Slavery, p. If. 



sheep, to the contingent humanity even of British bosoms ;— and shall 
we leave those, whom we have proved to be men, to the contingent 
humanity of a slave colony, where the eye is familiarized with 
cruel sights, and where we have seen a constant exposure to op- 
pression without the possibility of redress ? No. The treatment 
of the Negroes must be made to depend upon law ; and unless this 
be done, we shall look in vain for any real amelioration of their 
condition. In the first place, all those old laws, which are repug- 
nant to humanity and justice, must be done away. There must 
also be new laws, positive, certain, easy of execution, binding upon 
all, by means of which the Negroes in our islands shall have speedy 
and substantial redress in real cases of ill-usage, w-hether by star- 
vation, over-work, or acts of personal violence, or otherwise. 
There must be new laws again more akin to the principle of reward 
than of punishment, of privilege than of privation, and which shall 
have a tendency to raise or elevate their condition, so as to fit them 
by degrees to sustain the rank of free men. 

But if a new 7 Code of Laws be indispensably necessary in our 
colonies in order to secure a better treatment to the slaves, to 
whom must we look for it ? I answer, that we must not look for 
it to the West Indian Legislatures. For, in the first place, judging 
of what they are likely to do from what they have already done, or 
rather from what they have not done, we can have no reasonable 
expectation from that quarter. One hundred and fifty years have 
passed, during which long interval their laws have been nearly 
stationary, or without any material improvement. In the second 
place, the individuals composing these Legislatures, having been 
used to the exercise of unlimited power, would be unwilling to 
part with that portion of it, which would be necessary to secure 
the object in view. In the third place, their prejudices against 
their slaves are too great to allow them to become either impartial 
or willing actors in the case. The term slave being synonymous 
according to their estimation and usage with the term brute, they 
have fixed a stigma upon their Negroes, such as we, w r ho live in 
Europe, could not have conceived, unless we had had irrefragable 
evidence upon the point. What evils has not this cruel association 
of terms produced ? 1 he West Indian master looks down upon 
his slave with disdain. He has besides a certain antipathy against 
him. He hates the sight of his features, and of his colour; nay, 
he marks with distinctive opprobrium the very blood in his veins, 
attaching different names and more or less infamy to those who 
have it in them, according to the quantity which they have of it in 
consequence of their pedigree, or of their greater or less degree of 
consanguinity with the whites. Hence the West Indian feels an un- 
willingness to elevate the condition of the Negro, or to do any thing 


for hkn as a human being. I have no doubt, that this prejudice 
has been one of the great causes why the improvement of our slave 
population by law has been so long retarded, and that the same 
prejudice will continue to have a similar operation, so long as it 
shall continue to exist. Not that there are wanting men of hu- 
manity among our West Indian legislators. Their humanity is 
discernible enough when it is to be applied to the whites ; but 
such is the system of slavery, and the degradation attached to this 
system, that their humanity seems to be lost or gone, when it is to 
be applied to the blacks. Not again that there are wanting men 
of sense among the same body. They are shrewd and clever 
enough in the affairs of life, where they maintain an intercourse 
with the whites ; but in their intercourse with the blacks their sense 
appears to be shrivelled and not of its ordinary size. Look at the 
laws of their own making, as far as the Negroes are concerned, and 
they are a collection of any thing but — wisdom* 

It appears then, that if a new code of laws is indispensably ne- 
cessary in our Colonies in order to secure a better treatment of the 
slaves there, we are not to look to the West Indian Legislatures for 
it. To whom then are we to turn our eyes for help on this occa- 
sion ? We answer, To the British Parliament, the source of all 
legitimate power ; to that Parliament, zvhich has already heard and 
redressed in part the wrongs of Africa. The West Indian Legis- 
latures must be called upon to send their respective codes to this 
Parliament for revision. Here they will be well and impartially 
examined ; some of the laws will be struck out, others amended, 
and others added ; and at length they will be returned to the Co- 
lonies, means having been previously devised for their execution 

But here no doubt a considerable opposition would arise on the 
part of the West India planters. These would consider any such 
interference by the British Parliament as an invasion of their rights, 
and they would cry out accordingly. We remember that they set 
up a clamour when the abolition of the slave trade was first pro- 
posed. But what did Mr. Pitt say to them in the House of Com- 
mons? " I will now," said he, "consider the proposition, that on 
account of some patrimonial rights of the West Indians, the prohibi- 
tion of the slave trade would be an invasion of their legal inheritance. 
This proposition implied, that Parliament had no right to stop the 
importations : but had this detestable traffic received such a sanc- 
tion, as placed it more out of the jurisdiction of the Legislature for 
ever after, than any other branch of our trade? But if the laws 
respecting the slave trade implied a contract for its perpetual conti- 
nuance, the House could never regulate any other of the branches 
of our national commerce. But any contract for the promotion of 



this trade must, in his opinion, have been void from the beginning; for 
if it was an outrage upon justice, and only another name for fraud, 
robbery, and murder, what pledge could devolve upon the Legisla- 
ture to incur the obligation of becoming principals in the commis- 
sion of such enormities by sanctioning their continuance ?" 

They set up again a similar clamour, when the Registry Bill be- 
fore mentioned was discussed in Parliament, contending that the 
introduction of it there was an interference with their rights also : 
but we must not forget the reply which Mr. Canning made to them 
on that occasion. "He had known, (he said,) and there might again 
occur, instances of obstinacy in the colonial assemblies, which left 
the British Parliament no choice but direct interference. Such 
conduct might now call for such an exertion on the part of Parlia- 
ment ; but all that he pleaded for was, that time should be granted, 
that it might be known if the colonial assemblies would take upon 
them to do what that House was pleased to declare should be done. 
The present address could not be misunderstood. It told the co- 
lonial assemblies, You are safe for the present from the interference 
of the British Parliament, on the belief, and on the promise made 
for you, that left to yourselves you will do what is required of you. 
To hold this language was sufficient. The Assemblies might be left 
to infer the consequences of a refusal, and Parliament might rest 
satisfied with the consciousness, that they held in their hands the 
means of accomplishing that which they had proposed." in a 
subsequent discussion of the subject in the House of Lords, Lord 
Holland remarked, that " in his opinion there had been more pre- 
judice against this Bill than the nature of the thing justified; but, 
whatever might be the objection felt against it in the Colonies, it 
might be well for them to consider, that it would be impossible for 
them to resist, and that, if the thing was not done by them, it would 
be done for them" But on this subject, that is, on the subject of 
colonial rights, I shall say more in another place. It will be 
proper, however, to repeat here, and to insist upon it too, that 
there is no effectual way of remedying the evil complained of, but 
by subjecting the colonial laws to the revision of the Legislature 
of the mother country; and perhaps I shall disarm some of the 
opponents to this measure, and at any rate free myself from the 
charge of a novel and wild proposition, when I inform them that 
Mr, Long, the celebrated historian and planter of Jamaica, and to 
whose authority all West Indians look up, adopted the same idea. 
Writing on the affairs of Jamaica, he says : " The system* of Co- 
lonial government, and the imperfection of their several laws, are 

* See Dickson's Mitigation of Slavery, p. 339. 



subjects, which never were, but which ought to be 9 strictly can- 
vassed, examined, and amended by the British Parliament." 
- The second and last step to be taken by the Abolitionists should 
be, to collect all possible light on the subject of emancipation with 
a view of carrying that measure into effect in its due time. They 
ought never to forget, that emancipation was included in their ori- 
ginal idea of the abolition of the slave trade. Slavery was then as 
much an evil in their eyes as the trade itself; and so long as the 
former continues in its present state, the extinction of it ought to 
be equally an object of their care. All the slaves in our colonies, 
whether men, women, or children, whether Africans or Creoles, 
have been unjustly deprived of their rights. There is not a master, 
who has the least claim to their services in point of equity. There 
is, therefore, a great debt due to them, and for this no payment, 
no amends, no equivalent can be found, but a restoration to their 

That all have been unjustly deprived of their rights, may be easily 
shown by examining the different grounds on which they are al- 
leged to be held in bondage. With respect to those in our colo- 
nies, who are Africans, 1 never heard of any title to them but by 
the right of purchase. But it will be asked, where did the pur- 
chasers get them? It will be answered, that they got them from 
the sellers ; and where did ihe sellers, that is, the original sellers 
get them r They got them by fraud or violence. So says the evi- 
dence before the House of Commons ; and so, in fact, said both 
Houses of Parliament, when they abolished the trade : and this is 
the plea set up for retaining them in a cruel bondage ! ! ! 

With respect to the rest of the slaves, that is, the Creoles, or 
those born in the colonies, the services, the perpetual services, of 
these are claimed on the plea of the law of birth. They were born 
slaves, and this circumstance is said to give to their masters a suf- 
ficient right to their persons. But this doctrine sprung from the 
old Roman law, which taught that all slaves were to be considered 
as cattle. " Partus sequitur ventrem," says this law, or the " con- 
dition or lot of the mother determines the condition or lot of the 
offspring." It is the same law, which we ourselves now apply to 
cattle while they are in our possession. Thus the calf belongs 
to the man who owns the cow, and the foal to the man who owns 
the mare, and not to the owner of the bull or horse, which were the 
male- parents of each. It is then upon this, the old Roman law 
and not upon any English law, that the planters found their rioht 
to the services of such as are born in slavery. In conformity with 
this law they denied, for one hundred and fifty years, both the mo- 
ral and intellectual nature of their slaves. They considered them 
themselves, and they wished them to be considered by others, in 



these respects, as upon a level only with the beasts of the f eld. 
Happily, however, their efforts have been in vain. The evidence 
examined before the House of Commons in the years 1789, 1790, 
and 1791, has confirmed the falsehood of their doctrines. It has 
proved that the social affections and the intellectual powers both of 
Africans and Creoles are the same as those of other human beings. 
What then becomes of the Roman law ? For as it takes no other 
view of slaves than as cattle, how is it applicable to those, whom 
we have so abundantly proved to be men ? 

This is the grand plea, upon which our West Indian planters 
have founded their right to the perpetual services of their Creole 
slaves. They consider them as the young or offspring of cattle. 
But as the slaves in question have been proved, and are now ac- 
knowledged, to be the offspring of men and women, of social, in- 
tellectual, and accountable beings, their right must fall to the 
ground. Nor do I know upon what other principle or right they 
can support it. They can have surely no natural right to the in- 
fant, who is born of a woman slave. If there be any right to it by 
nature, such right must belong, not to the master of the mother, but 
to the mother herself. They can have no right to it again, either 
on the score of reason or of justice. Debt and crime have been 
generally admitted to be two fair grounds, on which men may be 
justly deprived of their liberty for a time, and even made to la- 
bour, inasmuch as they include reparation of injury, and the 
duty of the magistrate to make examples, in order that he may not 
bear the sword in vain. But what injury had the infant done, when 
it came into the world, to the master of its mother, that reparation 
should be sought for, or punishment inflicted for example, and that 
this reparation and this punishment should be made to consist of a 
course of action and suffering, against which, more than against any 
other, human nature would revolt? Is it reasonable, is it just, that 
a poor infant who has done no injury to any one, should be sub- 
jected, he and his posterity for ever, to the arbitrary will and ty- 
ranny of another, and moreover to the condition of a brute, because 
by mere accident, and by no fault or will of his own, he was born 
of a person, who had been previously in the condition of a slave I 

And as the right to slaves, because they were born slaves, can- 
not be defended either upon the principles of reason or of justice, 
so this right absolutely falls to pieces, when we come to try it by 
the touchstone of the Christian religion. Every man who is born 
into the world, whether he be white or whether he be black, is 
born, according to Christian notions, &free agent and an account- 
able creature. This is the Scriptural law of his nature as a human 
being. He is born under this law, and he continues under it during 
his life, Now the West Indian slavery is of such an arbitrary nature, 



that it may be termed proper or absolute. The -dominion attached to 
it is a despotism without control; a despotism, which keeps up its au- 
thority by terror only. The subjects of it must do, and this instanta- 
neously, whatever their master orders them to do, whether it be right 
oficrong. His will, and his will alone, is their law. If the wife of a 
slave were ordered by a master to submit herself to his lusts, and 
therefore to commit adultery, or if her husband were ordered to steal 
any thing for him, and therefore to commit theft, I have no con- 
ception that either the one or the other would dare to disobey his 
commands. " The whip, the shackles, the dungeon," says Mr. 
Steele before mentioned, " are at all times in his power, whether it 
be to gratify his lust, or display his authority # ." Now if the master 
has the power, a just and moral power, to make his slaves do what 
lie orders them to do, even if it be wrong, then I must contend 
that the Scriptures, whose authority we venerate, are false. I 
must contend that his slaves never could have been born free agents 
and accountable creatures ; or that, as soon as they became slaves, 
they were absolved from the condition of free-agency and that they 
lost their responsibility as men. But if, on the other hand, it be 
the revealed will of God, that all men, without exception, must be 
left free to act, but accountable to God for their actions ;— I con- 
tend that no man can be born, nay, further, that no man can be 
made, held, or possessed, as a proper slave. I contend that there 
can be, according to the Gospel-dispensation, no such state as 
West Indian slavery. But let us now suppose for a moment, that 
there might be found an instance or two of slaves enlightened by 
some pious Missionary, who would refuse to execute their master's 
orders on the principle that they were wrong ; even this would not 
alter our views of the case. For would not this refusal be so un- 
exampled, so unlooked-for, so immediately destructive to all au- 
thority and discipline, and so provocative of anger, that it would 
be followed by immediate and signal punishment % Here then we 
should have a West Indian master reversing all the laws and rules 
of civilized nations, and turning upside down all the morality of the 
Gospel by the novel practice of punishing men j'or their virtues. 
This new case affords another argument, why a man cannot be 
born a proper slave. In fact, the whole system of our planters 
appears to me to be so directly in opposition to the whole system 
of our religion, that I have no conception, how a man can have 
been born a slave, such as the West Indian is ; nor indeed have 1 
any conception, how he can be, rightly, or justly, or properly, a 
West Indian slave at all. There appears to me something even, 
impious in the thought ; and 1 am convinced, that many years will 

* Mitigation of Slavery, p. 50. 



not pass, before the West Indian slavery will fall, and that future 
ages will contemplate with astonishment how the preceding could 
have tolerated it. 

It has now appeared, if I have reasoned conclusively, that the 
West Indians have no title to their slaves on the ground of pur- 
chase, nor on the plea of the law of birth, nor on that of any na- 
tural right, nor on that of reason or justice, and that Christianity 
absolutely annihilates it. It remains only to show, that they have 
no title to them on the ground of original grants or permissions of 
Governments, or of Acts of Parliament, ox of Charters, or of En- 
glish lazv. 

With respect to original grants or permissions of Governments, 
die case is very clear. History informs us, that neither the African 
slave trade nor the West Indian slavery would have been allowed, 
had it not been for the misrepresentations and falsehoods of those, 
who were first concerned in them. The Governments of those times 
were made to believe, first, that the poor Africans embarked volun- 
tarily on board the ships which took them from their native land ; 
and secondly, that they were conveyed to the Colonies principally 
for their own benefit, or out of Christian feeling for them, that they 
might afterwards be converted to Christianity, lake as an instance 
of the first assertion, the way in which Queen Elizabeth was de- 
ceived, in whose reign the execrable slave trade began in England. 
This great princess seems on the very commencement of the trade 
to have questioned its lawfulness. She seems to have entertained 
a religious scruple concerning it, and indeed, to have revolted at 
the very thoughts of it. She seems to have been aware of the evils 
to which its continuance might lead, or that, if it were sanctioned, 
the most unjustifiable means might be made use of to procure the 
persons of the natives of Africa. And in what light she would 
have viewed any acts of this kind, had they taken place to her 
knowledge, w 7 e may conjecture from this fact — that when Captain 
(afterwards Sir John) Hawkins returned from his first voyage to 
Africa and Hispaniola, whither he had carried slaves, she sent for 
him, and, as we learn from Hill's Naval History, expressed her 
concern lest any of the Africans should be carried off without their 
free consent, declaring, "that it would be detestable and call down 
the vengeance of Heaven upon the undertakers." Capt. Hawkins 
promised to comply with the injunctions of Elizabeth in this respect. 
But he did not keep his word ; for when he went to Africa again, 
ke seized many of the inhabitants and carried them off as slaves. 
iC Here (says Hill) began the horrid practice of forcing the Africans 
into slavery, an injustice and barbarity, which, so sure as there is 
vengeance in Heaven for the worst of crimes, will sometime be 
the destruction of all who encourage it." Take as an instance of 


. 13 

the second what Labat, a Roman missionary, records in his ac- 
count of the Isles of America. He says, that Louis the Thirteenth 
was very uneasy, when he was about to issue the edict, by which all 
Africans coming into his colonies were to be made slaves ; and thai; 
this uneasiness continued, till he was assured that the introduction 
of them in this capacity into his foreign dominions was the readiest; 
way of converting them to the principles of the Christian religion. 
It was upon these ideas then, namely, that the Africans left their 
own country voluntarily, and that they were to receive the blessings 
of Christianity, and upon these alone, that the first transportations 
were allowed, and that the first English grants and Acts of Parlia- 
ment, and that the first foreign edicts, sanctioned them. We have; 
therefore the fact well authenticated, as it relates to original Go- 
vernment grants and permissions, that the owners of many of the 
Creole slaves in our colonies have no better title to them as pro- 
perty, than as being the descendants of persons forced away from 
their country and brought thither by a traffic, which had its al- 
lowed origin in fraud and falsehood. 

IS either have the masters of slaves in our colonies any title to 
their slaves on account of any charters, which they may be able to 
produce, though their charters are the only source of their power. 
It is through these that they have hitherto legislated, and that they 
continue to legislate. Take away their charters, and they would 
have no right or power to legislate at all. And yet, though they 
have their charters, and though the slavery, which now exists, has 
been formed and kept together entirely by the laws, which such 
charters have given them the power to make, this very slavery i$ 
illegal. There is not an individual, who holds any of the slaves by a 
legal title : for it is expressed in all these charters, whether in those 
given to William Perm and others for the continent of North America, 
or in those given for the islands now under our consideration, that 
" the laws and statutes, to be made there, are not to be repugnant, but, 
as near as may be, agreeable, to the lazes and statutes of this our king-, 
dom of Great Britain." But is it consistent with the laws of England, 
that any one man should have the power of forcing another to work 
for him without wages ? Is it consistent with the laws of England, 
that any one man should have the power of flogging, beating, bruis- 
ing, or wounding another at his discretion ? is it consistent with 
the laws of England, that a man should be judged by any but his 
peers ? Is it consistent with the same laws, that a man should be 
deprived of the power of giving evidence against the man who has 
injured him I or that there should be a privileged class, against 
whom no testimony can be admitted on certain occasions, though 
the perpetrators of the most horrid crimes ? But when we talk of 
consistency on this occasion, let us not forget that old law of Bar- 
bad oes. 


badoes, made while the charter of that island was fresh in 'every 
body's memory, and therefore in the very teeth of the charter it- 
self, which runs thus : " If any slave, under punishment by his 
master or by his order, shall suffer in life or member, no person 
shall be liable to any fine for the same: but if any person shall 
wantonly or cruelly kill his own slave, he shall pay the treasury 15/." 
And here let us remark, that, when Lord Seaforth, governor of 
Barbadoes, proposed, so lately as in 1802, the repeal of this bloody 
law, the Legislature of that island rejected the proposition with 
indignation. Nay, the very proposal to repeal it so stirred up at 
the time the bad passions of many, that several brutal murders of 
slaves were committed in consequence ; and it was not till two or 
three years afterwards that the governor had influence enough to 
get the law repealed. Let the West Indians then talk no more of 
their charters; for in consequence of having legislated upon prin- 
ciples, which are at variance with those upon which the laws of 
England are founded, they have forfeited them all. The mother 
country has therefore a right to withdraw these charters whenever 
she p'eases, and to substitute such others as she may think proper. 
And here let it be observed also, that the right of the West Indians 
to make any laws at all for their own islands being founded upon 
their charters, and upon these alone, and the laws relating to the 
slaves being contrary to what such charters prescribe, the slavery 
itself, that is, the daily living practice with respect to slaves under 
such laws, is illegal and may be done away. But if so, all our West 
Indian slaves are, without exception, unlawfully held in bondage. 
There is no master, w 7 ho has a legal title to any of them. This as- 
sertion may appear strange and extravagant to many; but it does 
not follow on that account that it is the less true. It is an assertion, 
which has been made by a West Indian proprietor himself. JMr. 
Steele*, before quoted, furnishes us with what passed at the meet- 
ing of the Society of Arts in Barbadoes at their committee-room in 
August 1785, when the following question was in the order of the 
day : " Is there any law written, or printed, by which a proprietor 
can prove his title to his slave under or conformable to the laws of 
England?" And "Why, (immediately said one of the members,) 
why conformable to the laws of England ? AVill not the courts in 
England admit such proof as is authorized by on r slave laws?"-** 
" 1 apprehend not, (answered a second,) unless we can show that 
our slave laws (according to the limitations of the charter) are not 
repugnant to the laws of England." — The same gentleman resumed : 
" Does the original purchaser of an African slave in this island ob- 
tain any legal title from the merchant or importer of slaves — and of 

* See Dickson's Mitigation of Slavery, o. 102. 



what nature ? Does it set forth any title of propriety, agreeable to 
the laws of England (or even to the laws of nations) to be in the im- 
porter more than what depends upon his simple averment ? And 
have not free Negroes been at sundry times trepanned by such 
dealers, and been brought contrary to the laws of nations, and sold 
here as slaves?" — "There is no doubt, (observed a third,) but such 
villainous actions have been done by worthless people : however, 
though an honest and unsuspicious man may be deceived in buying 
a stolen horse, it does not follow that he may not have a fair and just 
title to a horse or any thing else bought in an open and legal market; 
but according to the obligation of being not repugnant to the lazes 
of' England, I do not see how tee can have any title to our slaves 
likely to be supported by the laws of England/' In fact, the Colo- 
nial system is an excrescence upon the English Constitution, and 
is constantly at variance with it. There is not one English law, 
which gives a man a right to the liberty of any of his fellow crea- 
tures. Of course there cannot be, according to charters, any Co- 
lonial law to this effect. If there be, it is null and void. Nay, the 
very man, who is held in bondage by the Colonial law, becomes free 
by English law the moment he reaches the English shore. But 
we have said enough for our present purpose. We have shown 
that the slaves in our Colonies, whether they be Africans, or whe- 
ther they be Creoles, have been unjustly deprived of their rights. 
There is of course a great debt due to them. They have a claim 
to a restoration to liberty ; and as this restoration was included by 
the Abolitionists in their original idea of the abolition of the slave- 
trade, so it is their duty to endeavour to obtain it the first moment 
it is practicable. I shall conclude my observations on this part of 
the subject, in the words of that old champion of African liberty, 
Mr. W. Smith, the present Member for Norwich, when addressing 
the House of Commons in the last session of parliament on a par- 
ticular occasion. He admitted, alluding to the slaves in our colo~< 
nies, that "immediate emancipation might be an injury, and not a 
blessing to the slaves themselves. A period of preparation, which 
unhappily included delay, seemed to be necessary. The ground of 
this delay, however, was not the intermediate advantage to be de- 
rived from their labour, but a conviction of its expediency as it re- 
lated to themselves. We had to compensate to these wretched beings 
for ages of injustice. We were bound by the strongest obligations 
to train up these subjects of our past injustice and tyranny for an 
equal participation zcilh ourselves in the blessings of liberty and 
the protection of the laze ; and by these considerations ought our 
measures to be strictly and conscientiously regulated. It was only 
in consequence of the necessity of time to be consumed in such a 
preparation, that we could be justified in the retention of the Ne- 


groes in slavery for a single hour '; and he trusted that the eyes of 
all men, both here and in the colonies, would be open to this view 
of the subject as their clear and indispensable duty." 

Having led the reader to the first necessary step to be taken in 
favour of our slaves in the British Colonies, — namely, the procuring 
for them a new and better code of laws ; and having since led him 
to the last or final one,-— namely, the procuring for them the rights 
of which they have been unjustly deprived : I shall now confine 
myself entirely to this latter branch of the subject, being assured, 
that it has a claim to all the attention that can be bestowed upon 
it ; and I trust that I shall be able to show, by appealing to histo- 
rical facts, that however awful and tremendous the work of eman^ 
cipation may seem, it is yet practicable ; that it is practicable also 
without danger ; and moreover, that it is practicable with the pro- 
bability of advantage to all the parties concerned. 

In appealing however to facts for this purpose, we must expect 
no light from antiquity to guide us on our way ; for history gives 
us no account of persons in those times similarly situated with the 
slaves in the British colonies at the present day. There were no 
particular nations in those times, like the Africans, expressly set 
apart for slavery by the rest of the world, so as to have a stigma 
put upon them on that account, nor did a difference of the colour 
of the skin constitute always, as it now does, a most marked distinc- 
tion between the master and the slave, so as to increase this stigma 
and to perpetuate antipathies between them. Nor did the slaves 
of antiquity, except perhaps once in Sparta, form the whole labour- 
ing population of the land ; nor did they work incessantly, like the 
Africans, under the whip ; nor were they generally so behind their 
masters in cultivated intellect. Neither does ancient history give 
us in the cases of manumission, which it records, any parallel, from 
which we might argue in the case before us. The ancient manu- 
missions were those of individuals only, generally of but one at a 
time, and only now and then ; whereas the emancipation, which 
we contemplate in the colonies, will comprehend whole bodies of 
men, nay, whole populations, at a given time. We must go there- 
fore in quest of examples to modern times, or rather to the history 
of the colonial slavery itself; and if we should find any there, which 
appear to bear at all upon the case in question, we must be thankful 
for them, and, though they should not be be entirely to our mind, 
we must not turn them away, but keep them, and reason from them 
as far as their analogies will warrant. 

In examining a period comprehending the last forty years, I 
find no less than six or seven instances of the emancipation of Afri- 
can slaves in bodies. The first of these cases occurred at the close 
of the first American war. A number of slaves had run away 



from their North American masters and joined the British army. 
When peace came, the British Government did not know what to 
do with them. Their services were no longer wanted. To leave 
them behind to fall again into the power of their masters would 
have been great cruelty as well as injustice ; and as to taking them 
to England, what could have been done with them there ? It was 
at length determined to give them their liberty, and to disband 
them in Nova Scotia, and to settle them there upon grants of land 
as British subjects and as free men. The Nova Scotians on learn- 
ing their destination were alarmed. They could not bear the 
thought of having such a number of black persons among them, 
and particularly as these understood the use of arms. The Govern- 
ment, however, persevering in its original intention, they were con- 
veyed to Halifax, and distributed from thence into the country. 
Their number, comprehending men, women, and children, were 
two thousand and upwards. To gain their livelihood, some of 
them worked upon little portions of land of their own ; others worked 
as carpenters ; others became fishermen ; and others worked for 
hire in other ways. In process of time they raised places of wor- 
ship of their own, and had ministers of their own from their own 
body. They led a harmless life, and gained the character of an 
industrious and honest people from their white neighbours. A few 
years afterwards the land in Nova Scotia being found too poor to 
answer, and the climate too cold for their constitutions, a number 
of them, to the amount of between thirteen and fourteen hundred, 
volunteered to form a new colony, which was then first thought of, 
at Sierra Leone. Accordingly, having been conveyed there, they 
realized the object in view ; and they are to be found there, they 
or their descendants, most of them in independent and some of them 
in affluent circumstances, at the present day. 

A second case may be taken from what occurred at the close of 
the second, or last American war. It may be remembered that a 
large British naval force, having on board a powerful land force, 
sailed in the year 18 14, to make a descent on the coast of the south- 
ern States of America. The British army, when landed, marched 
to Washington, and burnt most of its public buildings. It was en«-> 
gaged also at different times with the American army in the field. 
During these expeditions, some hundreds of slaves in these parts 
joined the British standard by invitation. When the campaign 
was over, the same difficulty occurred about disposing of these as 
in the former case. It was determined at length to ship them to 
Trinidad as free labourers. But here, that is, at Trinidad, an ob- 
jection was started against receiving them, but on a different ground 
from that which had been started in the similar case in Nova Scotia. 
The planters of Trinidad were sure that no free Negroes would 

C ever 


ever work, and therefore that the slaves in question would, if made 
free and settled among them, support themselves by plunder. Sir 
Ralph Woodford, however, the governor of the island, resisted the 
outcry of these prejudices. He received them into the island, and 
settled them where he supposed the experiment would be most 
safely made. The result has shown his discernment. These very 
men, formerly slaves in the Southern States of America and after- 
wards emancipated in a body at Trinidad, are now earning their 
own livelihood, and with so much industry and good conduct 
that the calumnies originally spread against them have entirely died 

A third case may comprehend those Negroes, who lately formed 
what we call our West Indian black regiments. Some of these 
had been originally purchased in Africa, not as slaves but recruits, 
and others in Jamaica and elsewhere. They had all served as sol- 
diers in the West Indies. At length certain of these regiments 
were transported to Sierra Leone and disbanded there, and the in- 
dividuals composing them received their discharge as free men. 
This happened in the spring of 1819. Many hundreds of them 
were set at liberty at once upon this occasion. Some of these were 
afterwards marched into the interior, where they founded Waterloo, 
Hastings, and other villages. Others were shipped to the Isles de 
Loss, where they made settlements in like manner. Many, in both 
cases, took with them their wives, which they had brought from 
the West Indies, and others selected wives from the natives on the 
spot. They were all settled upon grants given them by the Go- 
vernment. It appears from accounts received from Sir Charles 
McCarthy, the governor of Sierra Leone, that they have conducted 
themselves to his satisfaction, and that they will prove a valuable 
addition to that colony. 

A fourth case may comprehend what we call the captured Ne- 
groes in the colony now mentioned. These are totally distinct from 
those either in the first or in the last of the cases which have been 
mentioned. It is well known that these were taken out of slave- 
ships captured at different times from the commencement of the 
abolition of the slave trade to the present moment, and that on being 
landed they were made free. After having been recruited in their 
health they were marched in bodies into the interior, where they 
were taught to form villages and to cultivate land for themselves. 
They were made free as they were landed from the vessels,yrom 
fifty to two or three hundred at a time. They occupy at present 
twelve towns, in which they have both their churches and their 
schools. Regents Town having been one of the first established, 
containing about thirteen hundred souls, stands foremost in improve- 
ment, and has become a pattern for industrv and good example. 



The people there have now fallen entirely into the habits of English 
society. They are decently and respectably dressed. They at- 
tend divine worship regularly. They exhibit an orderly and 
moral conduct. In their town little shops are now beginning 
to make their appearance; and their lands show the marks of 
extraordinary cultivation. Many of them, after having supplied 
their own wants for the year, have a surplus produce in hand for 
the purchase of superfluities or comforts. 

Here then are four cases of slaves, either Africans or descendants 
of Africans, emancipated in considerable bodies at a time. I have 
kept them by themselves, because they are of a different complexion 
from those, which I intend should follow. I shall now reason 
upon them. Let me premise, however, that I shall consider the 
three first of the cases as one, so that the same reasoning will do 
for all. They are alike indeed in their main features; and we must 
consider this as sufficient; for to attend minutely to every shade of 
difference*, which may occur in every case, would be to bewilder 
the reader, and to swell the size of my work unnecessarily, or 
without conferring an adequate benefit lo the controversy on either 

It will be said then (for my reasoning will consist principally in 
answering objections on the present occasion) that the three first 
cases are not strictly analogous to that of our West Indian slaves, 
whose emancipation we are seeking. It will be contended, that 
the slaves in our West Indian colonies have been constantly in an 
abject and degraded state. Their faculties are benumbed. They 
have contracted all the vices of slavery. They are become habi- 
tually thieves and liars. Their bosoms burn with revenge against 
the whites. How then can persons in such a state be fit to receive 
their freedom r The slaves, on the other hand, who are compre- 
hended in the three cases above mentioned, found in the British army 
a school as it were, which fitted them by degrees for making a good 
use of their liberty. While they were there, they were never out 
of the reach of discipline, and yet were daily left to themselves to 
act as free men. They obtained also in this preparatory school 
some knowledge of the customs of civilized life. They were in the 
habit also of mixing familiarly with the white soldiers. Hence, it 
will be said, they were in a state much more favourable for under- 
going a change in their condition than the West Indian slaves be- 
fore mentioned. I admit all this. I admit the difference between 
the two situations, and also the preference which I myself should 

* A part of the black regiments were bought in Africa as recruits, and were 
not transported in slave-ships, and never under West India masters : but it 
was only a small part compared with the whole number in the three cases. 

C 2 give 


give to the one above the other on account of its desirable tenden- 
cies. But I never stated, that our West Indian slaves were to be 
emancipated suddenly, but by degrees. I always, on the other hand, 
took it for granted, that they were to have their preparatory school 
also. Nor must it be forgotten, as a comparison has been in- 
stituted, that if there was less danger in emancipating the other 
slaves, because they had received something like a preparatory edu- 
cation for the change, there was far more in another point of view, 
because they were all acquainted with the use of arms. This is a 
consideration of great importance ; but particularly when we con- 
sider the prejudices of the blacks against the zvhites ; for would 
our West Indian planters be as much at their ease, as they now 
are, if their slaves had acquired a knowledge of the use of arms, 
or would they think them on this account more or less fit for eman- 
cipation ? 

It will be said again, that the fourth case, consisting of the Sierra 
Leone captured Negroes, is not strictly analogous to the one in 
point. These had probably been slaves but for a short time, — say 
a few months, including the time which elapsed between their re- 
duction to slavery and their embarkation from Africa, and between 
this their embarkation and their capture upon the ocean. They 
had scarcely been slaves when they were returned to the rank of 
free men. Little or no change therefore could have been effected 
in so short an interim in their disposition and their character ; and, 
as they were never carried to the West Indies, so they never could 
have contracted the bad habits, or the degradation or vices, of the 
slavery there. Tt will be contended therefore, that they were better, 
or less hazardous, subjects for emancipation, than the slaves in our 
colonies. I admit this objection, and I give it its full weight. I 
admit it to be less hazardous to emancipate a nezv than an old 
slave. And yet the case of the Sierra Leone captured Negroes is 
a very strong one. They were all Africans. They were all slaves. 
They must have contracted as mortal a haired of the whites from 
their sufferings on board ship by fetters, whips, and suffocation in 
the hold, as the West Indian from those severities which are at- 
tached to their bondage upon shore. Under these circumstances 
then we find them made free ; but observe, not after any prepara- 
tory discipline, but almost suddenly, and not singly, but in bodies 
at a time. We find them also settled or made to live under the 
unnatural government of the whites; and, what is more extraordi- 
nary, we find their present number, as compared with that of the 
whites in the same colony, nearly as one hundred arid fifty to one ; 
notwithstanding which superiority fresh emancipations are con- 
stantly taking place, as fresh cargoes of the captured arrive in port. 
It wilt be said, lastly, that all the four cases put together prove 



nothing. They can give us nothing like a positive assurance, that 
the Negro slaves in our colonies would pass through the ordeal of 
emancipation without danger to their masters or the community at 
large. Certainly not. Nor if these instances had been far more 
numerous than they are, could they, in this world of accidents, have 
given us a moral certainty of this. They afford us however a hope, 
that emancipation is practicable without danger : for will any one 
pretend to say, that we should have had as much reason for enter- 
taining such a hope, if no such instances had occurred; or that 
we should not have had reason to despair, if four such experiments 
had been made, and if they had all failed ? They afford us again 
ground for believing, that there is a peculiar softness, and plasti- 
city, and pliability in the African character. This softness may be 
collected almost every where from the Travels of Mr. Mungo Park, 
and has been noticed by other writers, who have contrasted it with 
the unbending ferocity of the North American Indians and other 
tribes. But if this be a feature in the African character, we may 
account for the uniformity of the conduct of those Africans, who 
were liberated on the several occasions above mentioned, or for their 
yielding so uniformly to the impressions, which had been given 
them by their superiors, after they had been made free ; and, if this 
be so, why should not our colonial slaves, if emancipated, conduct 
themselves in the same manner ? Besides, I am not sure whether 
the good conduct of the liberated in these cases was not to be attri- 
buted in part to a sense of interest, when they came to know T , that 
their condition was to be improved. Self-interest is a leading prin- 
ciple with all who are born into the world ; and why is the Negro 
slave in our colonies to be shut out from this common feeling of 
our nature? — why is he to rise against his master, when he is in- 
formed that his condition is to be bettered ? Did not the planters, 
as I have before related, declare in the House of Commons in the 
year 1816, that their Negroes had then imbibed the idea that they 
were to be made free, and that they were extremely restless on that 
account? But what was the cause of all this restlessness ? Why, 
undoubtedly the thought of their emancipation was so interesting, 
or rather a matter of such exceedingly great joy to them, that they 
could not help thinking and talking of it. And would not this be 
the case with our Negroes at this moment, if such a prospect were 
to be set before them ? But if they would be overjoyed at this pro- 
spect, is it likely they would cut the throats of those, who should at- 
tempt to realize it ? would they not, on the other hand, be disposed 
to conduct themselves equally well as the other African slaves be- 
fore mentioned, when they came to know, that they were imme* 
diately to be prepared for the reception of this great blessing, the 



first guarantee of which would be an immediate and living expe- 
rience of better laws and better treatment ? 

The fifth case may comprehend the slaves of St. Domingo as they 
were made free at different intervals in the course of the French 

To do justice to this case, I must give a history of the different 
circumstances connected with it. It may be remembered, then, 
that when the French Revolution, which decreed equality of rights 
to all citizens, had taken place, the free People of Colour of St. 
Domingo, many of whom were persons of large property and li- 
beral education, petitioned the National Assembly, that they might 
enjoy the same political privileges as the Whites there. At length the 
subject of the petition was discussed, but not till the 8th of March 
1790, when the Assembly agreed upon a decree concerning it. 
The decree, however, was worded so ambiguously, that the two 
parties in St. Domingo, the Whites and the People of Colour, in- 
terpreted it each of them in its own favour. This difference of in- 
terpretation gave rise to animosities between them, and these ani- 
mosities were augmented by political party-spirit, according as 
they were royalists or partizans of the French Revolution, so that 
disturbances took place and blood was shed. 

In the year 1791, the People of Colour petitioned the Assembly 
again, but principally for an explanation of the decree in question. 
On the 15th of May, the subject was taken into consideration, and 
the result was another decree in explicit terms, which determined, 
that the People of Colour in all the French islands were entitled to 
all the rights of citizenship, provided they were born of free parents 
on both sides. The news of this decree had no sooner arrived at the 
Cape, than it produced an indignation almost amounting to phrensy 
among the Whites. They directly trampled under foot the national 
cockade, and with difficulty were prevented from seizing all the 
French merchant ships in the roads. After this the two parties 
armed against each other. Even camps began to be formed. 
Horrible massacres and conflagrations followed, the reports of 
which, when brought to the mother-country, were so terrible, that 
the Assembly abolished the decree in favour of the free People of 
Colour in the same year. 

In the year 1792, the news of the rescinding of the decree as 
now stated, produced, when it reached St. Domingo, as much ir- 
ritation among the People of Colour, as the news of the passing of 
it had done among the Whites, and hostilities were renewed be- 
tween them, so that new battles, massacres, and burnings, took 
place. Suffice it to say, that as soon as these events became known 
in France, the Conventional Assembly, which had then succeeded 


23 ' 

the Legislative, took them into consideration. Seeing, however, 
nothing but difficulties and no hope of reconciliation on either 
side, they knew not what other course to take than to do justice, 
whatever the consequences might be. They resolved, accordingly, 
in the month of April, that the decree of 1791, which had been 
both made and reversed by the preceding Assembly in the same 
year, should stand good. They restored therefore the People of 
Colour to the privileges which had been been before voted to them, 
and appointed Santhonax, Polverel, and another, to repair in per- 
son to St. Domingo, with a large body of troops, and to act there 
as commissioners, and, among other things, to enforce the decree 
and to keep the peace. 

In the year 1793, the same divisions and the same bad blood 
continuing, notwithstanding the arrival of the commissioners, a very 
trivial matter, viz. a quarrel between a Mulatto and a White man 
(an' officer in the French marine), gave rise to new disasters. 
This quarrel took place on the 20th of June. On the same day 
the seamen left their ships in the roads, and came on shore, and 
made common cause of the affair with the white inhabitants of the 
town. On the other side were opposed the Mulattos and other 
People of Colour, and these were afterwards joined by some in- 
surgent Blacks. The battle lasted nearly two days. During this 
time the arsenal was taken and plundered, and some thousands 
were killed in the streets, and more than half the town was burnt. 
The commissioners, who were spectators of this horrible scene, 
and who had done all they could to restore peace, escaped unhurt, 
but they were left upon a heap of ruins, and with but little more 
power than the authority which their commission gave them. 
They had only about a thousand troops left in the place. They de- 
termined, therefore, under these circumstances, to call in the Negro 
Slaves in the neighbourhood to their assistance. They issued a 
proclamation in consequence, by which they promised to give free- 
dom to all the Blacks who were willing to range themselves under 
the banners of the Republic. This was the first proclamation 
made by public authority for emancipating slaves in St. Domingo. 
It is usually called the Proclamation of Santhonax, though both 
commissioners had a hand in it ; and sometimes, in allusion to 
the place where it was issued (the Cape), the Proclamation of the 
North. The result of it was, that a considerable number of slaves 
came in and were enfranchised. 

Soon after this transaction Polverel left his colleague Santhonax 
at the Cape, and went in his capacity of commissioner to Port au 
Prince, the capital of the West. Here he found every thing quiet, 
and cultivation in a flourishing state. From Port au Prince he 
visited Les Cayes, the capital of the South. He had not, however, 


been long there, before he found that the minds of the slaves be- 
gan to be in an unsettled state. They had become acquainted 
with what had taken place in the north, not only with the riots at 
the Cape, but the proclamation of Santhonax. Now this procla- 
mation, though it sanctioned freedom only for a particular or tem- 
porary purpose, did not exclude it from any particular quarter. 
The terms therefore appeared to be open to all who would ac^ 
cept them. Polverel therefore, seeing the impression which it 
had begun to make upon the minds of the slaves in these parts, 
was convinced that emancipation could be neither stopped nor 
retarded, and that it was absolutely necessary for the personal 
safety of the white planters, that it should be extended to the zvhole 
island. He was so convinced of the necessity of this, that he 
drew up a proclamation without further delay to that effect, and 
jput it into circulation. He dated it from Les Cayes. He ex- 
horted the planters to patronize it. He advised them, if they 
wished to avoid the most serious calamities, to concur themselves 
in the proposition of giving freedom to their slaves. He then 
caused a register to be opened at the Government house to receive 
the signatures of all those who should approve of his advice. It 
was remarkable that all the proprietors in these parts inscribed 
their names in the book. He then caused a similar register to be 
opened at Port au Prince for the West, Here the same disposition, 
was found to prevail. All the planters, except one, gave in their 
signatures. They had become pretty generally convinced by this 
time, that their own personal safety was connected with the mea- 
sure. It may be proper to observe here, that the proclamation 
last mentioned, which preceded these registries, though it was the 
act of Polverel alone, was sanctioned afterwards by Santhonax. It 
is, however, usually called the Proclamation of Polverel or of Les 
Cayes. It came out in September 1793. We may now add, 
that in the month of February 1794, the Conventional Assembly of 
France, though probably ignorant of what the commissioners had 
now done, passed a decree for the abolition of slavery throughout 
the whole of the French colonies. Thus the Government of the 
mother-country, without knowing it, confirmed freedom to those 
upon whom it had been bestowed by the commissioners. This 
decree put therefore the finishing stroke to the zvhole. It completed 
the emancipation of the whole slave population of St, Domingo. 

Having now given a concise history of the abolition of slavery in 
St. Domingo, 1 shall inquire how those who were liberated on 
these several occasions conducted themselves after this change 
in their situation. It is of great importance to us to know, whe- 
ther they used their freedom properly, or whether they abused it. 
With respect to those emancipated by Santhonax in the North, 



we have nothing to communicate. They were made free for mi- 
litary purposes only ; and we have no clue whereby we can find 
out what became of them afterwards. 

With respect to those who were emancipated next in the South, 
and those directly afterwards in the West, by the proclamation of 
Polverel, we are enabled to give a very pleasing account. Fortu- 
nately for our views, Colonel Malenfant, who was resident in the 
island at the time, has made us acquainted with their general con- 
duct and character. His account, though short, is quite sufficient 
for our purpose. Indeed it is highly satisfactory*. " After this 
public act of emancipation," says he, (by Polverel,) " the Negroes 
remained quiet both in the South and in the West, and they con- 
tinued to work upon all the plantations. There were estates, in- 
deed, which had neither owners nor managers resident upon them, 
for some of these had been put into prison by Montbrun ; and 
others, fearing the same fate, had fled to the quarter which had 
just been given up to the English. Yet upon these estates, though 
abandoned, the Negroes continued their labours f where there were 
any, even inferior, agents to guide them ; and on those estates, 
where no white men were left to direct them, they betook them- 
selves to the planting of provisions ; but upon all the plantations 
where the Whites resided, the Blacks continued to labour as 
quietly as before." A little further on in the work, ridiculing the 
notion entertained in France, that the Negroes would not work 
without compulsion, he takes occasion to allude to other Negroes, 
who had been liberated by the same proclamation, but who were 
more immediately under his own eye and cognizance^. " If," 
says he, "you will take care not to speak to them of their return 
to slavery, but talk to them about their liberty, you may with this 
latter word chain them down to their labour. How did Tous- 
saint succeed? How did 1 succeed also before his time in the 
plain of the Cul de Sac, and on the Plantation Gouraud, more 
than eight months after liberty had been granted (by Polverel) to 
the slaves ? Let those who knew me at that time, and even the 
Blacks themselves, be asked. They will all reply, that not a single 
Negro upon that plantation, consisting of more than four hundred 
and fifty labourers, refused to zcork ; and yet this plantation was 
thought to be under the worst discipline, and the slaves the most 
idle, of any in the plain. I, myself, inspired the same activity into 
three other plantations, of which I had the management." 

The above account is far beyond any thing that could have been 

* Memoire historiqoe et politique des Colonies, et particulierement de celle 
de St. Domiii^ue, &c. Paris, August 1814. 8vo. p. 58. 
t Pp. 125, 126. 



expected. Indeed, it is most gratifying. We find that the libe- 
rated Negroes, both in the South and the West, continued to work 
upon their old plantations, and for their old masters ; that there was 
also a spirit of' industry among them ; and that they gave no un- 
easiness to their employers ; for they are described as continuing 
to work as quietly as before. Such was the conduct of the Negroes 
for the first nine months after their liberation, or up to the middle 
of 1794. Let us pursue the subject, and see how they conducted 
themselves after this period. 

During the year 1795 and part of 1796 I learn nothing about 
them, neither good, nor bad, nor indifferent, though I have ran- 
sacked the French historians for this purpose. Had there, however, 
been any thing in the way of outrage, I should have heard of it ; 
and let me take this opportunity of setting my readers right, if, for 
want of knowing the dates of occurrences, they should have con- 
nected certain outrages, which assuredly took place in St. Domingo, 
with the emancipation of the slaves. The great massacres and confla- 
grations, which have made so frightful a picture in the history of 
this unhappy island, had been all effected before the proclamations 
of Santhonax and Polverel. They had all taken place in the days 
of slavery, or before the year 1794, that is, before the great conven- 
tional decree of the mother country was known. They had been 
occasioned, too, not originally by the slaves themselves, but by quar- 
rels between the white and coloured planters, and between the 
royalists and the revolutionists, who, for the purpose of reeking their 
vengeance upon each other, called in the aid of their respective 
slaves ; and as to the insurgent Negroes of the North, who filled 
that part of the colony so often with terror and dismay, they were 
originally put in motion, according to Malenfant, under the au- 
spices of the royalists themselves, to strengthen their own cause, 
and to put dozon the partizans of the French revolution. When 
Jean Francois and Biassou commenced the insurrection, there 
were many white royalists with them, and the Negroes were made 
to wear the white cockade. I repeat, then, that during the years 
1795 and 1796, I can find nothing in the History of St. Do- 
mingo, wherewith to reproach the emancipated Negroes in the 
way of outrage*. There is every reason, on the other hand, to be- 
lieve, that they conducted themselves, during this period, in as or- 
derly a manner as before. 

I come now to the latter part of the year 1796; and here hap- 
pily a clue is furnished me, by which 1 have an opportunity of 

* There were occasionally marauding parties from the mountains, who pil- 
laged in the plains; but these were the old insurgent, and not the emancipated 



pursuing my inquiry with pleasure. We shall find, that from this 
time there was no want of industry in those who had been eman- 
cipated, nor want of obedience in them as hired servants : they 
maintained, on the other hand, a respectable character. Let us 
appeal first to Malenfant. " The colony," says he*, "was Jlou- 
rishing under Toussaint. The Whites lived happily and in peace 
upon their estates, and the Negroes continued to work for them" 
Now Toussaint came into power, being general-in-chief of the 
.armies of St. Domingo, a little before the end of the year J 796, 
and remained in power till the year 1802, or till the invasion of the 
island by the French expedition of Buonaparte under Leclerc. 
Malenfant means therefore to state, that from the latter end of 1 796 
to 1802, a period of six years, the planters or farmers kept posses- 
sion of their estates ; that they lived upon them, and that they lived 
upon them peaceably, that is, without interruption or disturbance 
from any one ; and, finally, that the Negroes, though they had been 
all set free, continued to be their labourers. Can there be any 
account more favourable to our views than this, after so sudden an 
emancipation ? 

1 may appeal next to General Lacroix, who published his " Me- 
moirs for a History of St. Domingo," at Paris, in 1819. He in- 
forms us, that when Santhonax, who had been recalled to France 
by the Government there, returned to the colony in 1796, " he was 
astonished at the state in which he found it on his return." This, 
says Lacroix +, " was owing to Toussaint, who, while he had suc- 
ceeded in establishing perfect order and discipline among the black 
troops, had succeeded also in making the black labourers return to 
the plantations, there to resume the drudgery of cultivation." 

But the same author tells us, that in the next year (1797) the 
most wonderful progress had been made in agriculture. He uses 
these remarkable words : " The colony" says he J, " marched, as by 
enchantment, towards its ancient splendour; cultivation prospered ; 
every day produced perceptible proofs of its progress. The city of the 
Cape and the plantations of the North rose up again visibly to the 
eye" Now I am far from wishing to attribute all this wonderful im- 
provement, this daily visible progress in agriculture, to the mere 
act of the emancipation of the slaves in St. Domingo. T know 
that many other circumstances which I could specify, if I had 
room, contributed towards its growth; but I must be allowed to 
maintain, that unless the Negroes, who were then free, had done 
their part as labourers, both by working regularly and industriously, 
and by obeying the directions of their superintendants or masters, 

P. 78. f Metnoires, p. 311. \ Ibid. p. 324. 



the colony could never have gone on, as relates to cultivation, with 
the rapidity described. 

The next witness to whom I shall appeal, is the estimable Gene* 
ral Vincent, who lives now at Paris, though at an advanced age. 
Vincent was a colonel, and afterwards a general of brigade of ar- 
tillery in St. Domingo. He was stationed there during the time 
both of Santhonax and Toussaint. He w r as also a proprietor of 
estates in the island. He was the man who planned the renovation 
of its agriculture after the abolition of slavery, and one of the great 
instruments in bringing it to the perfection mentioned by Lacroix. 
In the year 1801, he was called upon by Toussaint to repair to 
Paris, to lay before the Directory the new constitution, which had 
been agreed upon in St. Domingo. He obeyed the summons. It 
happened, that he arrived in France just at the moment of the peace 
of Amiens ;. here he found, to his inexpressible surprise and grief, 
that Buonaparte was preparing an immense armament, to be com- 
manded by Leclerc, for the purpose of restoring slavery in St. Do- 
mingo. He lost no time in seeing the First Consul, and he had 
the courage to say at this interview what, perhaps, no other man 
in France would have dared to say at this particular moment. He 
remonstrated against the expedition ; he told him to his face, that 
though the army destined for this purpose was composed of the 
brilliant conquerors of Europe, it could do nothing in the Antilles. 
It would most assuredly be destroyed by the climate of St. Do- 
mingo, even though it should be doubtful, whether it would not 
be destroyed by the Blacks. He stated, as another argument 
against the expedition, that it was totally unnecessary, and there- 
fore criminal ; for that every thingzvas, going on well in St. Domingo. 
The proprietors were in peaceable possession of their estates ; culti- 
vation was making a rapid progress ; the Blacks were industrious, 
and beyond example happy. He conjured him, therefore, in the 
name of humanity, not to reverse this beautiful state of things. But, 
alas! his efforts were ineffectual. The die had been cast : and the 
only reward, which he received from Buonaparte for his manly and 
faithful representations, was banishment to the Isle of Elba. 

Having carried my examination into the conduct of the Ne- 
groes after their liberation to 1802, or to the invasion of the 
island by Leclerc, I must now leave a blank for nearly two years, 
or till the year 1804. It cannot be expected during a war, in which 
every man was called to arms to defend his own personal liberty, 
and that of every individual of his family, that we should see plan- 
tations cultivated as quietly as before, or even cultivated at all. 
But this was not the fault of the emancipated iSJeg?'oes f but of their 
former masters. It was owing to the prejudices of the latter, that 
this frightful invasion took place ; prejudices, indeed, common to 



all planters, where slavery obtains, from the very nature of their si- 
tuation, and upon which I have made my observations in a former 
place. Accustomed to the use of arbitrary power, they could no 
longer brook the loss of their whips. Accustomed again to look 
down upon the Negroes as an inferior race of beings, or as the rep^ 
tiles of the earth, they could not bear, peaceably as these had con- 
ducted themselves, to come into that familiar contact with them, 
as free labourers, which the change of their situation required. 
They considered them, too, as property lost, but which was to be 
recovered. In an evil hour, they prevailed upon Buonaparte, by 
false representations and promises of pecuniary support, to restore 
things to their former state. The hellish expedition at length ar- 
rived upon the shores of St. Domingo : — a scene of blood and tor- 
ture followed, such as history had never before disclosed, and com- 
pared with which, though planned and executed by Whites*, all the 
barbarities said to have been perpetrated by the insurgent Blacks 
of the North, amount comparatively to nothing. In fine, the French 
were driven from the island. TilL that time, the planters retained 
their property, and then it was, but not till then, that they lost 
their all ; it cannot, therefore, be expected, as I have said before, 
that I should have any thing to say in favour of the industry or 
good order of the emancipated Negroes, during such a convulsive 

In the year 1804, Dessalines was proclaimed emperor of this 
fine territory. Here I resume the thread of my history, (though 
it will be but for a moment,) in order that I may follow it to its 
end. In process of time, the black troops, containing the Negroes 
in question, were disbanded, except such as were retained for the 
peace-establishment of the army. They, who were disbanded, re- 
turned to cultivation. As they were free when they became sol- 
diers, so they continued to be free when they became labourers 
again. From that time to this, there has been no want of subordi- 
nation or industry among them. They or their descendants are the 
persons, by whom the plains and valleys of St. Domingo are still 
cultivated, and they are reported to follow their occupations still, 
and with as fair a character as other free labourers in any other 
quarter of the globe. 

We have now seen, that the emancipated Negroes never abused 
their liberty, from the year 1793 (the era of their general emanci- 
pation) to the present day, a period of thirty years. An important 

— — — ■ — > ' 

* The French were not the authors of tearing to pieces the Negroes alive 
by bloodhounds, or of suffocating them by hundreds at a time in the holds of 
ships, or of drowning them (whole cargoes) by scuttling and sinking the ves- 
sels;— but the planters. 



question then seems to force itself upon us, "What were the mea- 
sures taken after so frightful an event, as that of emancipation, to 
secure the tranquillity and order which has been described, or to 
rescue the planters and the colony from ruin ?" I am bound to an- 
swer this, if I can, were it only to gratify the curiosity of my read- 
ers ; but more particularly when I consider, that if emancipa- 
tion should ever be in contemplation in our own colonies, it will 
be desirable to have all the light possible upon that subject, and 
particularly of precedent or example. It appears then, that the 
two commissioners, Santhonax and Polverel, aware of the mis- 
chief which might attend their decrees, were obliged to take the 
best measures they could devise to prevent it. One of their first 
steps was to draw up a short code of rules to be observed upon the 
plantations. These rules were printed and made public. They 
were also ordered to be read aloud to all the Negroes upon every 
estate, for which purpose the latter were to be assembled at a par- 
ticular hour once a week. The preamble to these regulations in- 
sisted upon the necessity of working, without which every thing would 
go to ruin. Among the articles, the two the most worthy of our 
notice were, that the labourers were to be obliged to hire them- 
selves to their masters for not less than a year, at the end of which 
(September), but not before, they might quit their service, and en- 
gage with others ; and that they were to receive a third part of the 
produce of the estate, as a recompense for their labour. These two 
were fundamental articles. As to the minor, they were not alike 
upon every estate. This code of the commissioners subsisted for 
about three years. 

Toussaint, when he came into power, reconsidered this subject, 
and adopted a code of rules of his own. His first object was to pre- 
vent oppression on the part of the master or employer, and yet to 
secure obedience on the part of the labourer. Conceiving that there 
could be no liberty where any one man had the power of punishing 
another at his discretion, he took away from every master the use of 
the whip, and of the chain, and of every other instrument of cor- 
rection, either by himself or his own order : he took away, in fact, 
all power of arbitrary punishment. Every master offending against 
this regulation was to be summoned, on complaint by the labourer, 
before a magistrate or intendant of police, who was to examine into 
the case, and to act accordingly. Conceiving, on the other hand, 
that a just subordination ought to be kept up, and that, wherever 
delinquency occurred, punishment ought to follow, he ordained, 
that all labourers offending against the plantation laws, or not per- 
forming their contracts, should be brought before the same magi- 
strate or intendant of police, who should examine them touching 
such delinquency, and decide as in the former case : thus he ad- 

ministered justice without respect of persons. It must be noticed, 
that all punishments were to be executed by a civil officer, a sort of 
public executioner, that they might be considered as punishments 
by the state. Thus he kept up discipline on the plantations, without 
lessening authority on the one hand, and without invading the 
liberty of individuals on the other. 

Among his plantation offences was idleness on the part of the 
labourer. A man was not to receive wages from his master, and 
to do nothing. He was obliged to perforin a reasonable quantity of 
work, or be punished. Another offence was absence without leave, 
which was considered as desertion. 

Toussaint differed from the commissioners, as to the length of 
time for which labourers should engage themselves to masters. He 
thought it unwise to allow the former, in the infancy of their li- 
berty, to get notions of change and rambling at the end of every 
year. He ordained, therefore, that they should be attached to the 
plantations, and made, though free labourers, a sort of adscripti 
gleba, for five years. 

He differed again from the commissioners, as to the quantum of 
compensation for their labour. He thought one-third of the pro- 
duce too much, seeing that the planter had another third to pay to 
the Government. He ordered, therefore, one-fourth to the labourer, 
but this was in the case only, where the labourer clothed and main- 
tained himself : where he did not do this, he was entitled to a fourth 
only nominally, for out of this his master w T as to make a deduction 
for board and clothing. 

The above is all 1 have been able to collect of the code of Tous- 
saint, which, under his auspices, had the surprising effect of preserv- 
ing tranquillity and order, and of keeping up a spirit of industry on 
the plantations of St. Domingo, at a time when only idleness and 
anarchy were to have been expected. It was in force when Le- 
clerc arrived with his invading army, and it continued in force 
when the French army were beaten and Negro-liberty confirmed. 
From Toussaint it passed to Dessalines, and from Dessalines to 
Christophe and Petion, and from the two latter to Boyer ; and it is 
the code therefore which regulates, and I believe with but very 
little variation, the relative situation of master and servant in hus- 
bandry at this present hour. 

But it is time that 1 should now wind up the case before us. 
And, first, will any one say that this case is not analogous to that 
which we have in contemplation ? Let us remember that the num- 
ber of slaves liberated by the French decrees in St. Domingo was 
very little short of 500,000 persons, and that this was nearly equal 
to the number of all the slaves then in the British West Indian 
Islands when put together. But if there be a want of analogy, the 



difference lies on my side of the question. I maintain, that eman- 
cipation in St. Domingo was attended with far more hazard to 
persons and property, and with far greater difficulties; than 
it could possibly be, if attempted in our own islands. Can we 
forget that by the decree of Polverel, sanctioned afterwards by 
the Convention, all the slaves were made free at once, or in a single 
day? No notice was given of the event, and of course no prepara- 
tion could be made for it. They were released suddenly from all 
their former obligations and restraints. They were let loose 
upon the Whites, their masters, with all the vices of slavery upon 
them. What was to have been expected but the dissolution of 
ail civilized society, with the reign of barbarism and terror? Now 
all I ask for with respect to the slaves in our own islands is, that 
they should be emancipated by degrees, or that they should be made 
to pass through a certain course of discipline, as through a pre- 
paratory school, to fit them for the right use of their freedom. 
Again, can we forget the unfavourable circumstances, in which the 
slaves of St. Domingo were placed, for a year or two before their 
liberation, in another point of view? The island at this juncture 
was a prey to 'political discord, civil war, and foreign invasion, at 
the same time. Their masters were politically at variance with 
each other, as they were white or coloured persons, or republi- 
cans or royalists. They were quarrelling and fighting with each 
other, and shedding each other's blood. The English, who were 
in possession of the strong maritime posts, were alarming the coun- 
try by their incursions: they, the slaves, had been trained up to the 
same political animosities. They had been made to take the side of 
their respective masters, and to pass through scenes of violence and 
bloodshed. Now, whenever emancipation is to be proposed in our 
own colonies, I anticipate neither political parties, nor civil tears, 
nor foreign invasion, but a time of tranquillity and peace. W r ho 
then will be bold enough to say, after these remarks, that there 
could be any thing like the danger and difficulties in emancipating 
the slaves there, which existed when the slaves of St. Domingo 
were made free ? But some objector may say, after all, " There is 
one point in which your analogy is deficient. While Toussaint 
was in power, the Government of St. Domingo was a black one, 
and the Blacks would be more willing to submit to the authority of 
a black (their own) Government, than of a white one. Hence there 
were less disorders after emancipation in St. Domingo, than would 
have probably occurred, had it been tried in our own islands." 
But to such an objector I should reply, that he knows nothing of 
the history of St. Domingo. The Government of that island was 
French, or white, from the very infancy of emancipation to the arrival 
of the expedition of Leclerc. The slaves were made free under the 



government of Santhonax and Polverel. When these retired, othef 
white commissioners succeeded them. When Toussaint came into 
power, lie was not supreme; Generals Redouille, Vincent, and 
others, had a share in the government. Toussaint himself received 
his commission from the French Directory, and acted under it* 
He caused it every where to be made known, but particularly 
among his officers and troops, that he retained the island for the 
French Government, and that France was the mother-country . 

A sixth class of slaves emancipated in bodies may comprehend 
those, who began to be liberated about eighteen months ago in the 
newly-erected State of Columbia. General Bolivar began the great 
work himself by enfranchising his own slaves, to the number of be- 
tween seven and eight hundred. But he was not satisfied with 
this \ for believing, as he did, that to hold persons in slavery at ail, 
was not only morally wrong, but utterly inconsistent with the cha- 
racter of men fighting for their own liberty, he brought the subject 
before the Congress of Venezuela. The Congress there, after having 
duly considered it, drew up resolutions accordingly, which it recom-* 
mended to the first general Congress of Columbia, when it should 
be assembled. This last congress, which met at the time expected, 
passed a decree for emancipation on the lQth of July 1821. All 
slaves, who had assisted, in a military capacity, in achieving the 
independence of the republic, were at once declared free. All the 
children of slaves, born aft?r the said 19th of July, were to be free 
in succession as they attained the eighteenth year of their age. 
A fund was established at the same time by a general tax upon pro- 
perty, to pay the owners of such young slaves the expense of bring- 
ing them up to their eighteenth year, and for putting them after- 
wards to trades and useful professions ; and the same fund was 
made applicable to the purchase of the freedom of adults in each 
district every year, during the three national festivals in December, 
as far as the district-funds would permit. Care, however, was to 
be taken to select those of the best character. It may be proper 
to observe, that emancipation, as above explained, has been pro- 
ceeding regularly, from the 19th of July 1821, according to the 
terms of the decree, and also according to the ancient Spanish code, 
which still exists, and which is made to go hand in hand with it. 
They who attain their eighteenth year are not allowed to go at large 
after their liberation, but are put under the charge of special 
juntas for a useful education. The adults may have land, if they 
desire it, or they may go where they please. The State has lately 
purchased freedom for many of the latter, who had a liking to the 
army. Their freedom is secured to them whether they remain sol- 
diers or are discharged. It is particularly agreeable to me to be 
able to say that all, who have been hitherto emancipated, have con- 

i) ducted 


ducted themselves since that time with propriety. It appears by 
a letter from Columbia, dated 17th February 1822, about seven 
months after emancipation had commenced, addressed to James 
Stephen, Esq. of London, and since made public, "that the slaves 
were all then peaceably at zcork throughout the republic, as well as 
the nezcly enfranchised and those originally free." And it appears 
from the account of a gentleman of high consideration jus 1 : arrived 
from Columbia, in London, that up to the time of his departure, 
they who had been emancipated " were steady and industrious, 
and that they had conducted themselves well without a single excep- 
tion." But as this is an experiment which it will yet take sixteen 
years to complete, it can only be called to our aid, as far as the re- 
sult of it is known. It is, however, an experiment to which, as far 
as it has been made, we may appeal with satisfaction: for when 
we consider that eighteen months have elapsed, and that many # 
thousands have been freed since the passing of the decree and the 
date of the last accounts from Columbia, the decree cannot but 
be considered to have had a sufficient trial. 

The seventh class may comprehend the slaves of the Honourable 
Joshua Steele, whose emancipation was attempted in Barbadoes 
between the years 1783 and 1790. 

It appears that Mr. Steele lived several years in London. He 
was Vice-president of the London Society of Arts, Manufactures, 
and Commerce, and a person of talent and erudition. He was the 
proprietor of three estates in Barbadoe3. His agent there used 
to send him accounts annually of his concerns ; but these were 
latterly so ruinous, not only in a pecuniary point of view, but as 
they related to what Mr. Steele called the destruction of his Ne- 
groes, that he resolved, though then at the advanced age of eighty, 
to go there, and to look into his affairs himself. Accordingly he 
embarked, and arrived there early in the year 1780. 

Mr. Steele had not been long in Barbadoes, before he saw 
enough to convince him that there was something radically wrong 
in the management of the slaves there, and he was anxious to try, 
as well for the sake of humanity as of his own interest, to effect a 
change in it. But how was he to accomplish this f ? " He con- 

* All the slave-population was to be emancipated in 18 years; and this con- 
sisted at the time of passing the decree of from 250,000 to 300,000 souls. 

f See Dr. Dickson's Mitigation of Slavery, London 1814, from whence every 
thing relating to this subject is taken. Dr. Dickson had been for many years 
secretary to Governor Hay, in Barbadoes, where he had an opportunity of stu- 
dying the Slave agriculture as a system. Being in London afterwards when the 
Slave Trade controversy was going on in Parliament, he distinguished himself 
by silencing the different writers who defended the West Indian, slavery. 



sidered within himself how difficult it would be, nay, impossible* 
for a single proprietor to attempt so great a novelty as to bring 
about an alteration of manners and customs protected by iniquitous 
laws, and to which the gentlemen of the country were reconciled 
as to the best possible for amending the indocile and intractable 
ignorance of Negro slaves/' It struck him however, among 
the expedients which occurred, that he might be able to form a 
Society, similar to the one in London, for the purpose of impro- 
ving the arts, manufactures, and commerce of Barbadoes ; and if 
so, he " indulged a hope that by means of it conferences might be 
introduced on patriotic subjects, in the course of which new ideas 
and new opinions might soften the national bigotry, so far as to 
admit some discourses on the possibility of amendment in the mode 
of governing slaves." Following up this idea, he brought it at 
length to bear. A Society was formed, in consequence, of gentle- 
men of the island in 1781. The subjects under its discussion be- 
came popular. It printed its first minutes in 1782, which Were 
very favourably received, and it seemed to bid fair after this to an- 
swer the benevolent views of its founder. 

During this time, a space of two years, Mr. Steele had been 
gaining a practical knowledge of the West Indian husbandry ^ and 
also a practical knowledge of the temper, disposition, habits, and 
customs of the slaves. He had also read much and thought much. 
It may be inferred from his writings, that three questions especially 
had employed his mind. 1. Whether he could not do away all ar- 
bitrary punishments and yet keep up discipline among the slaves? 
2. Whether he could not carry on the plantation-work through 
the stimulus of reward ? 3. Whether he could not change slavery 
into a condition of a milder name and character, so that the slaves 
should be led by degrees to the threshold of liberty, from whence 
they might step next, without hazard, into the rank of free men, if 
circumstances should permit and encourage such a procedure. 
Mr. Steele thought, after mature consideration, that he could ac- 
complish all these objects, and he resolved to make the experiments 
gradually upon his own estates. 

At the end of the year 1783 he put the first of these questions 
to trial. " I took," says he, " the whips and all power of arbi- 
trary punishment from all the overseers and their white servants, 
which occasioned my chief overseer to resign, and I soon dismissed 
all his deputies, who could not bear the loss of their whips; but at 


the same time, that a proper subordination and obedience to law- 
ful orders and duty should be preserved, I created a magistracy 
out of the Negroes themselves, and appointed a court or jury of 
the elder Negroes or head-men for trial and punishment of all 
casual offences, (and these courts were always to be held in my 
presence, or in that of my new superintendant,) which court very 
soon grew respectable. Seven of these men being of the rank of 
drivers in their different departments, were also constituted rulers, 
as magistrates over all the gang, and were charged to see at all times 
that nothing should go wrong in the plantations ; but that on all 
necessary occasions they should assemble and consult together how 
any such wrong should be immediately rectified ; and I made it 
known to all the gangs, that the authority of these rulers should 
supply the absence or vacancy of an overseer in all cases ; they 
making daily or occasional reports of all occurrences to the pro- 
prietor or his delegate for his approbation or his orders." 
- It appears that Mr. Steele was satisfied with this his first step, 
and he took no other for some time. At length, in about another 
year, he ventured upon the second. He "tried whether he could 
not obtain the labour of his Negroes by voluntary means instead of 
the old method by violence." On a certain day he oflered a pe- 
cuniary reward for holing canes, which is the most laborious ope- 
ration in West Indian husbandry. " He oflered two-pence half- 
penny (currency), or about three-halfpence (sterling), per day, 
with the usual allowance to holers of a dram with molasses, to 
any twenty-five of his Negroes, both men and women, who would 
undertake to hole for canes an acre per day, at about 96^ holes 
for each Negro to the acre. The whole gang were ready to under- 
take it; but only fifty of the volunteers were accepted, and many 
among them were those who on much lighter occasions had usually 
pleaded infirmity and inability : but the ground having been moist, 
they holed twelve acres within six days with great ease, having 
had an hour, more or less, every evening to spare, and the like ex- 
periment was repeated with the like success. More experiments 
with such premiums on weeding and deep hoeing were made by 
task- work per acre, and all succeeded in like manner, their pre- 
miums being all punctually paid them in proportion to their per- 
formance. But afterwards some of the same people being put 
ivithout premium to weed on a loose cultivated soil in the com- 
mon manner, eighteen Negroes did not do as much in a given time 
as six had performed of the like sort of work a few days before 
with the premium of two-pence half-penny." The next year Mr. 
Steele made similar experiments. Success attended him again ; 
and from this time task-work, or the voluntary system, became the 
oeneral practice of the estate. 



Mr. Steele did not proceed to put the third question to trial till 
the year 1789. The Society of Arts, which he had instituted in 
1781, had greatly disappointed him. Some of the members, look- 
ing back to the discussions which had taken place on the subject 
of Slavery, began to think that they had gone too far as slave- 
holders in their admissions. They began to insinuate, " that they 
had been taken in, under the specious appearance of promoting 
the arts, manufactures, and commerce of Barbadoes, to promote 
dangerous designs against its established lazes and customs." Dis- 
cussions therefore of this sort became too unpopular to be conti- 
nued. It was therefore not till Mr. Steele found, that he had no 
hope of assistance from this Society, and that he was obliged to 
depend solely upon himself, that he put in force the remainder of 
his general plan. He had already (in 1783), as we stated some 
time ago, abolished arbitrary punishment and instituted a Negro- 
magistracy ; and since that time (in 1785) he had adopted the 
system of working by the piece. But the remaining part of his 
plan went the length of altering the condition of the slaves them- 
selves; and it is of this alteration, a most important one (in 1789), 
that 1 am now to speak. 

Mr, Steele took the hint for the particular mode of improving 
the condition of his slaves, which I am going to describe, from 
the practice of our Anglo-Saxon ancestors in the days of Villainage, 
which, he says, was " the most wise and excellent mode of civi- 
lizing savage slaves." There were in those days three classes of 
villains. The first or lowest consisted of villains in gross, who 
were alienable at pleasure. The second of villains regardent, who 
were adscript i glcbee, or attached as freehold property to the soil. 
And the third or last of copyhold bondmen, who had tenements of 
.and, for which they were bound to pay in services. The villains 
first mentioned, or those of the lowest class, had all these grada-^ 
tions to pass through, from the first into the second, and from the 
second into the third, before they could become free men. This 
was the model, from which Mr. Steele resolved to borrow, when 
he formed his plan for changing the condition of his slaves. He 
did not, however, adopt it throughout, but he chose out of it what 
he thought would be most suitable to his purpose, and left the rest. 
We may now see what the plan was, when put together, from the 
following account. 

In the year 1789 he erected his plantations into manors. It 
appears that the Governor of Barbadoes had the power by charter, 
with the consent of the majority of the council, of dividing the 
island into manors, lordships, and precincts, and of making free- 
holders ; and though this had not yet been done, Mr. Steele hoped, 
as a member of council, to have influence sufficient to get his own 



practice legalized in time. Presuming upon this, he registered in 
the manor-book all his adult male slaves as copyholders. He then 
gave to these separate tenements of lands, which they were to oc- 
cupy, and upon which they were to raise whatever they might think 
most advantageous to their support. These tenements consisted 
of half an acre of plantable and productive land to each adult, a 
quantity supposed to be sufficient with industry to furnish him and 
his family with provision and clothing. The tenements were 
jnade descendible to the heirs of the occupiers or copyholders, that 
js, to their children on the plantations ; for no part of the succes.- 
sion was to go out of the plantations to the issue of any foreign 
wife, and, in case of no such heirs, they were to fall in to the lord 
to be re-granted according to Iris discretion. It was also inscribed 
that any one of the copyholders, who would not perform his ser- 
vices to the manor (the refractory and others), was to forfeit his 
tenement and his privileged rank, and to go back to villain in gross 
and to be subject to corporal punishment as before. " Thus," says 
Mr. Steele, "we run no risk whatever in making the experiment by 
giving such copyhold-tenements to all our well-deserving Negroes, 
and to all in general, when they appear to be worthy of that fa- 

Matters having been adjusted so far, Mr. Steele introduced the 
practice of rent and wages. He put an annual rent upon each 
tenement, which he valued at so many days' labour. He set a 
rent also upon personal service, as due by the copyholder to his 
master in his former quality of slave, seeing that his master or pre.-? 
decessor had purchased a property in him, and this he valued in 
the same manner. He then added the two rents together, making 
so many days' work altogether, and estimated them in the current 
money of the time. Having done this, he fixed a daily wages or 
pay to be received by the copyholders for the work which they 
were to do. They were to work 260 days in the year for him, 
and to have 48 besides Sundays for themselves. He reduced 
these days' work also to current money. These wages he fixed 
at such a rate, that ^ they should be more than equivalent to the 
rent of their copyholds and the rent of their personal services when 
.put together, in order to hold out to them an evident and profit- 
able incentive to their industry." It appears that the rent of the 
tenement, half an acre, was fixed at the rate of 3/. currency, or 
between forty and fifty shillings sterling per acre, and the wages 
for a man belonging to the first gang at 7 hi. currency or 6d. 
sterling per day. As to the rent for the personal services, it is not 

With respect to labour and things connected with it, Mr. Steele 
entered the following among the local laws in the courl-ioll of the 



tenants and tenements. The copyholders were not to work for 
other masters without the leave of the lord. They were to work 
ten hours per day. If they worked over and above that time, they 
were to be paid for every hour a tenth part of their daily wages, 
and they were also to forfeit a tenth for every hour they were ab- 
sent or deficient in the work of the day. All sorts of work, how- 
ever, were to be reduced, as far as it could be done by observa- 
tion and estimation, to equitable task-work. Hoes were to be 
furnished to the copyholders in the first instance ; but they were to 
renew them, when worn out, at their own expense. The other 
tools were to be lent them, but to be returned to the store-keeper 
at night, or to be paid lor in default of so doing. Mr. Steele 
was to continue the hospital and medical attendance at his own 
expense as before. 

Mr. Steele, having now rent to receive and wages to pay, was 
obliged to settle a new mode of accounting between the plantation 
and the labourers. " He brought, therefore, all the minor crops 
of the plantation, such as corn, grain of all sorts, yams, eddoes, 
besides rum and molasses, into a regular cash account by weight 
ind measure, which he charged to the copyhold- storekeeper at 
narket prices of the current time, and the storekeeper paid them 
tit the same prices to such of the copyholders as called for them in 
part of wages, in whose option it was to take either cash or goods, 
according to their earnings, to answer all their wants. Rice, salt, 
salt fish, barrelled pork, Cork butter, flour, bread, biscuit, candles, 
tobacco and pipes, and all species of clothing, were provided and 
furnished from the store at the lowest market prices. An account 
of what was paid for daily subsistence, and of what stood in their 
arrears to answer the rents of their lands, the fines and forfeitures 
for delinquencies, their head-levy and all other casual demands, 
was accurately kept in columns with great simplicity, and in books, 
which checked each other. 

Such was the plan of Mr. Steele, and I have the pleasure of 
being able to announce, that fefee result of it was highly satisfactory 
to himself. In the year 1788, when only the first and second part 
of it had been reduced to practice, he spoke of it thus: — " A plan- 
tation," says he, "of between seven and eight hundred acres has been 
governed by fixed laws and a Negro-court /b/- about Jive years with 
great success. In this plantation no overseer or white servant is 
allowed to lift his hand against a Negro, nor can he arbitrarily order 
a punishment. Fixed laws and a court or jury of their peers keep 
all in order without the ill effect of sudden and intemperate pas- 
sions." And in the year 1790, about a year after the last part of 
his plan had been put to trial, he says in a letter to Dr. Dickson, 

" My 


(* My copyholders have succeeded beyond my expectation." This 
was his last letter to that gentleman, for he died in the beginning 
of the next year. Mr. Steele went over to Barbadoes, as I have 
said before, in the year 1780, and he was then in the eightieth 
year of his age. He began his humane and glorious work in 1785, 
and he finished it in 1789. It took him, therefore, six years to 
"bring his Negroes to the state of vassalage described, or to that state 
from whence he was sure that they might be transferred without 
danger in no distant time, to the rank of freemen, if it should be 
thought desirable. He lived one year afterwards to witness the 
success of his labours. He had accomplished, therefore, all he 
wished, and he died in the year 1791> in the ninety-first year of 
his age. 

It may be proper now, and indeed useful to the cause which 
I advocate, to stop for a moment, just to observe the similarity 
of sentiment of two great men, quite unknown to each other ; one 
of whom (Mr, Steele) was concerned in preparing Negro-slaves for 
freedom, and the other (Toussaint) in devising the best mode of 
managing them after they had been suddenly made free. 

It appears, first, that they were both agreed in this point, viz. 
that the Jirst step to be taken in either case, was the total abolition 
of arbitrary punishment, 

It appears, secondly, that they were nevertheless both agreed 
again as to the necessity of punishing delinquents, but that they 
adopted different ways of bringing them to justice. Toussaint re- 
ferred them to magistrateSj but Mr, Steele to a Negro-court, I 
should prefer the latter expedient; first, because a Negro-court 
may be always at hand, whereas magistrates may live at a distance 
from the plantations, and not be always at home. Secondly, be- 
cause the holding of a Negro-court would give consequence to 
those Negroes who should compose it, not only in their own eyes 
but in the eyes of others ; and every thing, that might elevate the 
Black character, would be useful to those who were on the road 
to emancipation , and, lastly, because there must be some thing sa-^ 
tisfactory and consoling to the accused to be tried by their peers. 

It appears, thirdly, that both of them were agreed again in the 
principle of making the Negroes, in either case, adscript i glebce, or 
attached to the soil, though they might differ as to. the length of 
time of such ascription. 

^nd it appears, lastly, that they were agreed in another, and this 
the only remaining point, viz. on the necessity of holding out a 
stimulus to either, so as to excite in them a very superior spirit of 
industry to any they had known before. They resorted, however, 
to different means to effect this, Toussaint gave the labourers one 



fourth of the produce of the land ; deducting board and clothing. 
Mr. Steele, on the other hand, gave them daily zvages. I do 
not know which to prefer; but the plan of JVJr. Steele is most 
consonant to the English practice. 

But to return. It is possible that some objector may rise up 
here as before, and say that even the case, which I have now de- 
tailed, is not, strictly speaking, analogous to that which we have 
in contemplation, and may argue thus : — " The case of Mr. Steele 
is not a complete precedent, because his slaves were never fully 
emancipated. He had brought them only to the threshold of li- 
berty, but no further. They were only copyholders, but not free 
men" To this I reply, first, That Mr, Steele accomplished all 
that he ever aimed at. I have his own words for saying, that 
so long as the present iniquitous slave laws, and the distinction of 
colour, should exist, it would be imprudent to go further. I 
reply again, That the partisans of emancipation would be happy 
indeed, if they could see the day when our West Indian slaves 
should arrive at the rank and condition of the copyholders of Mr. 
Steele'. They wish for no other freedom than that which is com- 
patible zoith the joint interest of the master and the slave. At the 
same time they must maintain, that the copyholders of Mr. Steele 
had been brought so near to the condition of free men, that a re- 
moval from one into the other, after a certain time, seemed more 
like a thing of course than a matter to be attended either with diffi- 
culty or danger ; for unquestionably their moral character must 
have been improved. If they had ceased for seven years to feel 
themselves degraded by arbitrary punishment, they must have ac- 
quired some little independence of mind. If they had been paid 
for their labour, they must have acquired something like a spirit of 
industry. If they had been made to pay rent for their cottage and 
land, and to maintain themselves, they must have been made to 
look beforehand, to think for themselves and families from day to 
day, and to provide against the future, all which operations ol the 
mind are the characteristics only of free men. The case, therefore, 
of Mr. Steele is most important and precious : for it shows us, first, 
that the emancipation, which we seek, is a thing which man be 
effected. The plan of Mr. Steele was put in force in a British 
Island, and that, which was done in one British Island, may under 
similar circumstances be done again in the same, as well as in an- 
other. It shows us, again, how this emancipation may be brought 
about. The process is so clearly detailed, that any one may 
follow it. It is also a case for encouragement, inasmuch as it was 
attended with success. 

I have now considered no less than six cases of slaves emanci- 
pated in bodies, and a seventh of slaves, who were led up to the very 



threshold of freedom, comprehending altogether not less than be- 
tween five and six hundred thousand persons; and I have consi- 
dered also all the objections that could be reasonably advanced 
against them. The result is a belief on my part, that emancipa- 
tion is not only 'practicable, but that it is practicable without 
danger. The slaves, whose cases I have been considering, were 
resident in different parts of the world. There must have been, 
amongst such a vast number, persons of all characters. Some 
were liberated, who had been accustomed to the use of arms. 
Others at a time when the land in which they sojourned was 
afflicted with civil and foreign wars \ others again suddenly, and 
with all the vicious habits of slavery upon them. And yet, under 
all these disadvantageous circumstances, I find them all, without 
exception, yielding themselves to the zvill of their superiors, so as 
to be brought by them zeith as much ease and certainty into the 
form intended for them, as clay in the hands of the potter is fashioned 
to his own model. But, if this be so, I think I should be charges- 
able with a want of common sense, were f to doubt for a moment, 
that emancipation zvas not practicable ; and I am not sure that 
1 should not be exposed to the same charge, were I to doubt, 
that emancipation zuas practicable without danger. For I have not 
been able to discover (and it is most remarkable) a single failure in 
any of the cases which have been produced. I have not been able 
to discover throughout this vast mass of emancipated persons a sin- 
gle instance of bad behaviour on their parts, not even of a refusal 
to work, or of disobedience to orders. M uch less have I seen fright- 
ful commotions, or massacres, or a return of evil for evil, or re- 
venge for past injuries, even when they had it amply in their power. 
In fact, the Negro character is malleable at the European will. 
There is, as I have observed before, a singular pliability in the 
constitutional temper of the Negroes, and they have besides a quick 
sense of their own interest, which influences their conduct. 1 
am convinced, that West India masters can do what they will with 
their slaves ; and that they may lead them through any changes they 
please, and with perfect safety to themselves, if they will only make 
them (the slaves) understand that they are to be benefited thereby. 

Having now established, I hope, two of my points, first, that 
emancipation is practicable, and, secondly, that it is practicable 
without danger, I proceed to show the probability that it zwuld 
be attended with profit to those planters who should be permitted 
to adopt it. I return, therefore, to the case of Mr. Steele. I 
give him the prior hearing on this new occasion, because I am 
sure that my readers will be anxious to learn something more about 
him ; or to know what became of his plans, or how far such hu- 
mane endeavours were attended with success. 

I shall 


I shall begin by quoting the following expressions of Mr. 
Steele. " I have employed and amused myself," says he, " by in- 
troducing an entire new mode of governing my own slaves, for their 
happiness, and also for my own profit" It appears, then, that 
Mr, Steele's new method of management was profitable. Let us 
now try to make out from his own account, of what these profits 

Mr. Steele informs us, that his superintendant had obliged him 
to hire all his holing at Si. currency, or 2/. <2s. \0d. sterling per 
acre. He was very much displeased at these repeated charges; 
and then it was, that he put his second question to trial, as 1 have 
before related, viz. whether he could not obtain the labour of his 
Negroes by voluntary means, instead of by the old method by vio- 
lence. He made, therefore, an attempt to introduce task-work, or 
labour with an expected premium for extraordinary efforts, upon 
his estates. He gave his Negroes therefore a small pecuniary re- 
ward over and above the usual allowances, and the consequence 
was, as he himself says, that " the poorest, feeblest, and by cha- 
racter the most indolent Negroes of the whole gang, cheerfully per- 
formed the holing of his land, generally said to be the most labo- 
rious work, for less than a fourth part of the stated price paid to 
the undertakers for holing." This experiment I have detailed in 
another place. After this he continued the practice of task-work 
or premium. He describes the operation of such a system upon 
the minds of his Negroes in the following words : " According to 
the vulgar mode of governing Negro-slaves, they feel only the de- 
sponding fear of punishment for doing less than they ought, with- 
out being sensible that the settled allowance of food and clothing is 
given, and should be accepted, as a reward for doing well, while in 
task-work the expectation of winning the reward, and the fear of 
losing it, have a double operation to exert their endeavours." Mr. 
Steele was also benefited again in another point of view by the 
new practice which he had introduced. " He was clearly con- 
vinced, that saving time, by doing in one day as much as would 
otherwise require three days, was worth more than double the pre- 
mium, the timely effects on vegetation being critical." He found 
also to his satisfaction, that "during all the operations under the 
premium there were no disorders, no crowding to the sick-house, as 

I have now to make my remarks upon this account. It shows 
us clearly how Mr. Steele made a part of his profits. These^ pro- 
fits consisted first of a saving of expense in his husbandry, which 
saving teas not made by others. He had his land holed at one-fourth 
of the usual rate. Let us apply this to all the other operations of 
husbandry, such as weeding, deep hoeing, &c. in a large farm of 
nearly eight hundred acres, like his, and we shall see how consi- 


derable the savings would be in one year. His Negroes again did 
not counterfeit sickness as before, in order to be excused from la- 
bour, but rather wished to labour in order to obtain the reward. 
There was therefore no crowding to the hospitals. This constituted 
a second source of saving; for they who were in the hospitals were 
maintained by Mr. Steele without earning any thing, while they 
who were working in the field left to their master in their work, 
when they went home at night, a value equal at least to that which 
they had received from him for their'day's labour. But there was 
another saving of equal importance, which Mr. Steele calls a saving 
of time, but which he might with more propriety have called a sav- 
ing of season. This saving of season, he says, was worth more than 
double the premium; and so it might easily have been. There are 
soils, every farmer knows, which are so constituted, that if you 
miss your day, you miss your season ; and, if you miss your season, 
you lose probably half your crop. The saving, therefore, of the 
season, by having a whole crop instead of half an one, was a third 
source of saving of money. Now let us put all these savings to- 
gether, and they will constitute a great saving or profit ; for as these 
savings were made by Mr. Steele in consequence of his new plan, 
and were therefore not made by others, they constituted an extra- 
ordinary profit to him ; or they added to the profit, whatever it 
might have been, which he used to receive from the estate before 
his new plan was put in execution. 

But 1 discover other ways in which Mr. Steele was benefited, 
as I advance in the perusal of his writings. It was impossible to 
overlook the following passage : " Now," says he (alluding to his 
new system), " every species of provisions raised on the plantations, 
or bought from the merchants, is charged at the market-price to 
the copyhold-store, and discharged by what has been paid on the 
several accounts of every individual bond-slave ; whereas for all 
those species heretofore, 1 never saw in any plantation-book of my 
estates any account of what became of them, or how they were 
disposed of, nor of their value, other than in these concise words, 
they were given in allowance to the Negroes and stock. Every year, 
for six years past, this great plantation has bought several hundred 
bushels of corn, and was scanty in all ground-provisions, our pro- 
duce always falling short. This year, 1790, since the establishment 
of copyholders, though several less acres were planted last year in 
Guinea corn than usual, yet we have been able to sell several hun- 
dred bushels at a high price, and we have still a great stock in hand. 
I can place this saving to no other account, than that there is now 
an exact account kept by all produce being paid as cash to the 
bond-slaves; and also as all our watchmen are obliged to pay for 
all losses that happen on their watch, they have found it their in- 
terest to look well to their charge ; and consequently that we have 



bad much less stolen from us than before this new government took 

Here then we have seen another considerable source of saving 
to Mr. Steele, viz. that he was not obliged to purchase any com 
for his slaves as formerly. My readers will be able to judge bet- 
ter of this saving, when 1 inform them of what has been the wretch- 
ed policy of many of our planters in this department of their con- 
cerns. Look over their farming memoranda, and you will see 
sugar, sugar, sugar, in every page ; but you may turn over leaf 
after leaf, before you will find the words provision ground for their 
slaves. By means of this wretched policy, slaves have often suffered 
most grievously. Some of them have been half-starved. Starva- 
tion, too, has brought on disorders which have ultimately termina- 
ted in their death. Hence their masters have suffered losses, be- 
sides the expense incurred in buying what they ought to have 
raised upon their own estates, and this perhaps at a dear market : 
and in this wretched predicament Mr. Steele appears to have been 
himself when he first went to the estate. His slaves, he tells us, 
had been reduced in number by bad management. Even for six 
years afterwards he had been obliged to buy several hundred 
bushels of corn ; but in the year 1790 he had sold several hundred 
bushels at a high price, and had still a great stock on hand. Ana 
to what was all this owing ? Not to an exact account kept at the 
store (for some may have so misunderstood Mr. Steele); for how 
could an exact account kept there, have occasioned an increase in 
the produce of the earth? but, as Mr. Steele himself says, to the 
establishment of his copyholders, or to the alteration of the condi- 
tion of his slaves. His slaves did not only three times more work 
than before, in consequence of the superior industry he had excited 
among them, but, by so doing, they were enabled to put the corn 
into the earth three times more quickly than before, or they were 
so much forwarder in their other work, that they were enabled to 
sow it at the critical moment, or so as to save the season, and thus 
secure a full crop, or a larger crop on a less number of acres, than 
was before raised upon a greater. The copyholders, therefore, 
were the persons who increased the produce of the earth ; but the 
exact account kept at the store prevented the produce from being 
misapplied as formerly. It could no longer be put down in the 
general expression of " given in allowances to the Negroes and the 
stock;" but it was put down to the copyholder, and to him only, 
who received it. Thus Mr. Steele saved the purchase of a great 
part of the provisions for his slaves. He had formerly a great deal 
to buy for them, but now nothing. On the other hand, he had to 
sell; but, as his slaves were made, according to the new system, to 
maintain themselves, he had now the whole produce of his estate to 



dispose of The circumstance therefore of having nothing to buy, 
but every thing to sell, constituted another source of his profits. 

What the other particular profits of Mr. Steele were I can no 
where find, neither can I find what were his particular expenses ; 
so as to be enabled to strike the balance in his favour. Happily, 
however, Mr. Steele has done this for us himself, though he has 
not furnished us with the items on either side. — He says that " from 
the year 1773 to 1779 (he arrived in Barbadoes in 1780), his stock 
had been so much reduced by ill management and wasteful eco- 
nomy, that the annual average neat clearance was little more than 
one and a quarter per cent, on the purchase. In a second period 
of four years, in consequence of the exertion of an honest and able 
manager, (though with a further reduction of the stock, and includ- 
ing the loss from the great hurricane,) the annual average income 
was brought to clear a little above two per cent.; but in a third pe- 
riod of three years from 1784 to 1786 inclusive, since the new mode 
of governing the Negroes, (besides increasing the stock and laying 
out large sums annually in adding necessary works, and in repairs 
of the damages by the great hurricane,) the estate has cleared very 
near four and a quarter per cent.; that is, its annual average clear- 
ance in each of these three periods, was in this proportion ; for every 
100/. annually cleared in the first period the annual average clear- 
ance in the second period was 158/. 10s., and in the third period 
was 345/. 6s. &d," This is the statement given by Mr. Steele, 
and a most important one it is ; for if we compare what the estate 
had cleared in the first, with what it had cleared in the last of these 
periods, and have recourse to figures, we shall find that Mr. Steele 
had more than tripled the income of it, in consequence of his new 
management, during his residence in Barbadoes. And this is in 
fact what he says himself in words at full length, in his answer to 
the 17th question proposed to him by the committee of the Privy- 
council on the affairs of the slave trade. " In a plantation," says he, 
" of 200 slaves in June 1780, consisting of 90 men, 82 women, 56 
boys, and 60 girls, though under the exertions of an able and ho- 
nest manager, there were only 15 births, and no less than 57 deaths, 
in three years and three months. An alteration was made in the 
mode of governing the slaves. The whips were taken from all the 
white servants. All arbitrary punishments were abolished, and all 
offences were tried and sentence passed by a Negro court. In four 
years and three months after this change of government, there were 
44 births, and only 4 I deaths, of which ten deaths were of super- 
annuatedfmen and women, some above 80 years old. But in the 
same interval the annual neat clearance of the estate was above 
three times more than it had been for ten years before ! ! !" 

.Dr. Dickson, the editor of Mr. Steele, mentions these profits 



also, and in the same terms, and connects them with an eulogium 
on Mr. Steele, which is worthy of our attention. " Mr. Steele," says 
he, "saw that the Negroes, like all other human beings, were to be 
stimulated to permanent exertion only by a sense of their own in- 
terests in providing for their own wants and those of their offspring. 
fie therefore tried rezcards, which immediately roused the most in- 
dolent to exertion. His experiments ended in-regular wages, which 
the industry he had excited among his whole gang enabled him to 
pay. Here was a natural, efficient, and profitable reciprocity of 
interests. His people became contented; his mind was freed from 
that perpetual vexation and that load of anxiety, which are insepa- 
rable from the vulgar system, and in little more than four years the 
annual neat clearance of his property was more than tripled." Again, 
in another part of the work, " Mr. Steele's plan may no doubt re- 
ceive some improvements, which his great age obliged him to de- 
cline" — " but it is perfect, as far as it goes. To advance above 300 
field-negroes, who had never before moved without the whip, to a 
state nearly resembling that of contented, honest and industrious 
servants, and, after paying for their labour, to triple in a few years 
the annual neat clearance of the estate, — these, I say, were great 
achievements for an aged man in an untried field of improvement, 
pre-occupied by inveterate vulgar prejudice. He has indeed ac- 
complished all that was really doubtful or difficult in the underta- 
king, and perhaps ail that is at present desirable either for owner 
or slave ; for he has ascertained as a fact, what was before only 
known to the learned as a theory, and to practical men as a para- 
dox, that the paying of slaves for their labour does actually produce 
a very great profit to their owners" 

1 have now proved (as far as the plan* of Mr. Steele is con- 
cerned) my third proposition, or the probability that emancipation 
would promote the interests of those zvho should adopt it; but as I 
know of no other estate similarly circumstanced with that of Mr. 
Steele, that is, where emancipation has been tried, and where a de- 
tailed result of it has been made known, I cannot confirm it by 
other similar examples. I must have recourse therefore to some 
new species of proof. Now it is an old maxim, as old as the days 
of Pliny and Columella, and confirmed by Dr. Adam Smith, and 
all the modern writers on political economy, that the labour of free 
men is cheaper than the labour of slaves. If therefore I should 

* It is much to be feared that this beautiful order of things was broken up 
after Mr. Steele's death by his successors, either through their own prejudices, 
or their unwillingness or inability to stand against the scoffs and prejudices of 
others. It may be happy, however, for thousands now in slavery, that Mr. 
Steele lived to accomplish his plan. The constituent parts and result of it 
being known, a line example is shown to those who may be desirous of trying 



be able to show that this maxim would be true, if applied to all the 
Operations and demands of West Indian agriculture, I should be 
able to establish my proposition on a new ground : for it requires 
no great acuteness to inter, that, if it be cheaper to employ free 
men than slaves in the cultivation of our islands, emancipation 
would be a profitable undertaking there. 

I shall show, then, that the old maxim just mentioned is true, 
when applied to the case in our own islands, first, by establishing 
the fact, that free men, people of colour, in the East Indies, are 
employed in precisely the same concerns (the cultivation of the cane 
and the making of sugar) as the slaves in the West, and that they 
are employed at a cheaper rate. The testimony of Henry Botham, 
Esq. will be quite sufficient for this point. That gentleman resi- 
ded for some time in the East Indies, where he became acquainted 
with the business of a sugar estate. In the year 1770 he quitted 
the East for the West. His object was to settle in the latter part 
of the world, if it should be found desirable so to do. For this pur- 
pose he visited all the West Indian islands, both English and 
French, in about two years. H e became during this time a planter, 
though he did not continue long in this situation ; and he superin* 
tended also Messrs. Bosanquets' and J. Fatio's sugar-plantation in 
their partners' absence. Finding at length the unprofitable way in 
which the West Indian planters conducted their concerns, he re- 
turned to the East Indies in 1776, andestablished sugar- works at 
Bencoolen on his own account. Being in London in the year 1 7B9, 
when a committee of privy council was sitting to examine into the 
question of the slave trade, he delivered a paper to the board on 
the mode of cultivating a sugar plantation in the East Indies; and 
this paper being thought of great importance, he was summoned 
afterwards in 1791 by a committee of the House of Commons to 
be examined personally upon it. 

It is very remarkable that the very first sentence in this paper 
announced the fact at once, that " sugar, better and cheaper than 
that in the West Indian islands, was produced by free men." 

Mr. Botham then explained the simple process of making sugar 
in the East. " A proprietor, generally a Dutchman, used to let 
his estate, say 300 acres or more, with proper buildings upon it, 
to a Chinese, who lived upon it and superintended it, and who re- 
let it to free men in parcels of 50 or 60 acres on condition that they 
should plant it in canes for so much for every pecul, 133 lbs., of 
sugar produced. This superintendant hired people from the ad- 
jacent villages to take off his crop. One lot of task-men with their 
carts and buffaloes cut the canes, carried them to the mill, and 
ground them. A second set boiled them, and a third clayed and 
basketed them for market at so much per pecul. Thus the renter 
knew with certainty what every pecul would cost him, and he in- 


curred no unnecessary expense ; for, when the crop was Over, the 
task-men returned home. By dividing the labour in this manner^ 
it was better and cheaper done." 

Mr. Botham detailed next the improved method of making sugar 
in Batavia, which we have not room to insert here. We may just 
state, however, that the persons concerned in it never made spirits 
on the sugar estates. The molasses and skimmings were sent for 
sale to Batavia, where one distillery might buy the produce of a 
hundred estates. Here, again, was a vast saving, says Mr. Botham, 
"there was not, as in the West Indies, a distillery for each 

He then proceeded to make a comparison between the agricul- 
tural system of the two countries. " The cane was cultivated to 
the utmost perfection in Batavia, whereas the culture of it in the 
West Indies was but in its infancy. The hoe was scarcely used in 
the East, whereas it was almost the sole implement in the West. 
The plough was used instead of it in the East, as far as it could be 
done. Young canes there were kept also often ploughed as a weed- 
ing, and the hoe was kept to weed round the plant when very 
young ; but of this there was little need, if the land had been suffi- 
ciently ploughed. When the cane was ready to be earthed up, it 
was done by a sort of shovel made for the purpose* Two persons 
with this instrument would earth up more canes in a day than ten 
Negroes with hoes. The cane-roots were also ploughed up in the 
East, whereas they were dug up zvith the severest exertion in the 
West. Many alterations," says Mr. Botham, " are to be made, and 
expenses and human labour lessened in the West. Having expe* 
rienced the difference of labourers for profit and labourers from 
force, I can assert, that the savings by the former are very conside- 

He then pointed out other defects in the West Indian manage- 
ment, and their remedies. " I am of opinion,' 7 says he, " that the 
West Indian planter should for his own interest give more labour 
to beast and less to man. A larger portion of his estate ought to 
be in pasture. When practicable, canes should be carried to the 
mill, and cane tops and grass to the stock, in waggons. The cus- 
tom of making a hard- worked Negro get a bundle of grass twice a 
day should be abolished, and in short a total change take place in 
the miserable management in our VS'est Indian Islands. By these 
means following as near as possible the East Indian mode, and con- 
solidating the distilleries, 1 do suppose our sugar*islands might be 
better worked than they now are by two-thirds or indeed one-half 
of the present force. Let it be considered how much labour is lost 
by the persons overseeing the forced labourer, which is saved when 
he works for his own profit. I have stated with the strictest vera- 

E city 


city a plain matter of fact, that sugar-estates can be worked cheaper 
by free men than by slaves'*. 

I shall now show, that the old maxim, which has been men- 
tioned, is true, when applied to the case of our West Indian islands, 
by establishing a fact of a very different kind, viz. that, the slaves in 
the West Indies do much more work in a given time when they 
work for themselves, than when they ztork for their masters. But 
how, it will be said, do you prove, by establishing this fact, that it 
would be cheaper for our planters to employ free men than slaves? 
I answer thus : I maintain that, while the slaves are zoor king for, 
themselves, they are to be considered, indeed that they are, bond 
fde, free labourers. In the first place, they never have a driver 
with them on any of these occasions ; and, in the second place, 
having all their earnings to themselves, they have that stimulus 
within them to excite industry, which is only known to free men. 
What is it, I ask, which gives birth to industry in any part of the 
world, seeing that labour is not agreeable to man, but the stimulus 
arising from the hope of gain ? What makes an English labourer 
do more work in the day than a slave, but the stimulus arising from 
the knowledge, that what he earns is for himself and not for an- 
other? What, again, makes an English labourer do much more work 
by the piece than by the day, but the stimulus arising from the 
knowledge that he may gain more by the former than by the latter 
mode of work ? Just so is the West Indian slave situated, when 
he is working for himself, that is, when he knows that what he earns 
is for his own use. He has then all the stimulus of a free man, and 
he is, therefore, during such work (though unhappily no longer) 
really, and in effect, and to all intents and purposes, as much a free 
labourer as any person in any part of the globe. But if he be 2 
free man, while he is working for himself, and if in that capacity 
he does twice or thrice more work than when he works for his mas- 
ter, it follows, that it would be cheaper for his master to employ 
him as a free labourer, or that the labour of free men in the West 
Indies would be cheaper than the labour of slaves. 

That West Indian slaves, when they work for themselves, do 
much more in a given time than when they work for their mas- 
ters, is a fact so notorious in the West Indies, that no one who has 
been there would deny it. Look at Long's History of Jamaica, 
The Privj Council Report, Gaisford's Essay on the good Effects 
of the Abolition of the Slave Trade, and other books. Let us hear 

* Mr. Botham's account is confirmed incontrovertibly by the fact, that su- 
gar made in the East Indies can be brought to England (though it has three 
times the distance to come, and of course three times the freight to pay), and 
yet be afforded to the consumer at as cher.p a rate as any that can be brought 
thither from the West. 


also what Dr. Dickson, the editor of Mr. Steele, and who resided 
so many years in Barbadoes, says on this subject, for what he says 
is so admirably expressed that I cannot help quoting it. "The 
planters," says he, " do not take the right way to make human beings 
put forth their strength. They apply main force where they should 
apply moral motives, and punishments alone where rewards should 
be judiciously intermixed. They first beslave their poor people with 
their cursed whip, and then stand and wonder at the tremour of 
iheir nerves, and the laxity of their muscles. And yet, strange to tell, 
those very men affirm, and affirm truly, that a slave will do more 
work for himself in an afternoon than he can be made to do for his 
owner in a whole day or more!" And did not the whole Assembly 
of Grenada, as we collect from the famous speech of Mr. Pitt on 
the Slave Trade in 1791, affirm the same thing ? " He (Mr. Pitt) 
would show," he said, "the futility of the argument of his honourable 
friend. He (his honourable friend) had himself admitted, that it 
w r as in the power of the colonies to correct the various abuses by 
which the Negro population was restrained. But they could not 
do tliis without improving the condition of their slaves, without 
making them approximate towards the rank of citizens, without 
giving them some little interest in their labour, which would occa- 
sion them to work with the energy of men. But now the Assembly 
of Grenada had themselves stated, that, though the Negroes were al- 
lowed the afternoon of only one day in every zveek, they would do as 
much zoork in that afternoon when employed for their own benefit, 
as in the whole day when employed in their masters service. JNow 
after this confession the House might burn all his calculations re- 
lative to the Negro population; for if this population had not quite 
reached the desirable state which he had pointed out, this confes- 
sion had proved that further supplies were not wanted. A Negro, 
if he worked for himself, could do double work. By an improve- 
ment then in the mode of labour, the work in the islands could be 
doubled. But if so, what would become of the argument of his 
honourable friend ? for then only half the number of the present 
labourers were necessary." 

But the fact, that the slaves in the West Indies do much more 
work for themselves in a given time than when they work for their 
masters, may be established almost arithmetically, if we will take 
the trouble of calculating from authentic documents which present 
themselves on the subject. It is surprising, when we look into 
the evidence examined by the House of Commons on the sub- 
ject of the Slave Trade, to find how little a West [ndian slave 
really does, when he works for his master; and this is confessed 
equally by the witnesses on both sides of the question. One of 
them (Mr. Francklyn) says, that a labouring man could not get 
his bread in Europe if he worked no harder than a Negro. An- 

E C Z 


other (Mr. Tobin), that no Negro works like a day-labourer ift 
England. Another (Sir John Bailing), that the general work of 
Negroes is not to be called labour. A fourth (Dr. Jackson), that 
an English labourer does three times as much work as a Negro in 
the West Indies. Now how are these expressions to be re-con^ 
ciled with the common notions in England of Negio labour? for 
" to work like a Negro" is a common phrase, which is understood 
to convey the meaning, that the labour of the Negroes is the most 
severe and intolerable that is known. One of the witnesses,, how- 
ever, just mentioned explains the matter. " The hardship/' says 
he, "of Negro field-labour is more in the mode than in the quan- 
tity done. The slave, seeing no end of his labour, stands over the 
work, and only throws the hoe to avoid the lash. He appears k> 
work 'without actually working." The truth is, that a Negro, 
having no interest in his work while working for his master, will 
work only while the whip'is upon him. 1 can no where make out 
the clear net annual earnings of a field Negro on a sugar planta- 
tion to come up to 8/. sterling. Now what does he earn in the 
course of a year when he is working for himself? 1 dare not repeat 
what some of the witnesses for the planters stated to tfee House of 
Commons, when representing the enviable condition of the slaves 
in the West Indies; for this would be to make him earn more for 
himself w one day than for his master in a week. Let us take then 
the lowest sum mentioned in the Book of Evidence. This is stated; 
to be 14 d. sterling per week; and \4d. sterling per week would 
make 3/. sterling per year. But how many days in the week does 
he work when he makes such annual earnings I The most time, 
which any of the witnesses gives to a field slave for his own private 
concerns, is every Sunday, and also every Saturday afternoon in the 
week, besides three holidays in the year. But this is far from being 
the general account. Many of them say that he has only Sunday 
to himself; and others, that even Sunday is occasionally trespassed 
upon by his master. It appears, ako, that even where the after- 
noon is given him, it is only out of crop-time. Now let us take 
into the account the time lost by slaves in going backwards and for- 
wards to their provision-grounds; for though some of these are de- 
scribed as being only a stone's throw from their huts, others are de- 
scribed as being one, and two, and three, and even four miles off; 
and let us take into the account also, that Sunday is, by the confes- 
sion of all, the Negro market day, on which alone they can dispose 
of their own produce, and that the market itself may be from one 
to ten or fifteen miles from their homes, and that they who go there 
cannot be working in their gardens at the same time, and we shall 
find that there cannot be on an average more than a clear three 
quarters of a day in the week, which they can call their own, and 
in which the.y can work for themselves. But call it a whole dav, 



tf you please, and you will find tl>at the slave does for himself in 
this one day more than a third of what he does for his master in 
six, or that he works more than three times harder when he works 
for himself than when he works for his master, 

I have now shown, first by the evidence of Mr. Botham, and 
secondly by the fact of Negroes earning more in a given time when 
they work in their own gardens, than when they work in, their 
master's service, that the old maxim " of its being cheaper to em- 
ploy free men than slaves" is true, when applied to the operations 
unci demands of (Vest Indian agriculture. But if it be cheaper to 
employ free men than slaves in the West Indies, then thev, who 
should emancipate their Negroes there, would promote their inter- 
est by $o doing. " But hold !" says an objector, " we allow. that 
their successors would be benefited, but not the emancipators them- 
selves. These would have a great sacrifice to make. Their slaves 
are worth so much money at this moment; but they would lose all 
this value, if they were to set them tioe, 1 reply, and indeed 
I have all along affirmed, that it is not proposed to emancipate 
the slaves at once, but to prepare them for emancipation in a course 
of years, Mr. Steele did not make his slaves entirely free. They 
were copyhold-bond slaves. They were still his freehold property : 
and they would, if he had iived, have continued so for many years. 
They therefore, who should emancipate, would lose nothing of the 
value of their slaves, so long as they brought them only to the door 
of liberty, but did not allow them to pass through it. But suppose 
they were to allow them to pass through it and thus admit them to 
freedom, they would lose nothing by so doing; for they would not 
admit them to -freedom till after a certain period of years, during 
which 1 contend that the value of every individual slave would 
have been reimbursed to them from the increased income of their 
estates. Mr. Steele, as we base seen, wore than tripled the value of 
his income during his experiment: 1 believe that he more than qua- 
drupled it ; for he says, that he more than tripled it besides increas- 
ing his stock, and laying out large sums annually in adding neces- 
sary zvorks, and in repairs of the damage by the great hurricane. 
Suppose then a West India estate to yield at this moment a nett 
income of 500/. per annum, this income would be increased, ac» 
cord'mg to Mr. Steele's experience, to somewhere about 1700/. per 
annum. Would not, then, the surplus beyond the original 500/., 
viz. 1200/. per annum, be sufficient to reimburse the proprietor in 
a few years for the value of every slave. which he had when he be- 
gan his plan of emancipation ? But he would be reimbursed again, 
that is, (twice over on the whole for every individual slave,) from a 
new source, viz. the improved value of his land f It is a fact well 
known in the United States, that a certain quantity of land, or 
farm, in full cultivation by free men, will fetch twice more money 



than the same quantity of land, similarly circumstanced, in full 
cultivation by slaves. Let us suppose now that the slaves at pre- 
sent on any West Indian plantation are worth about as much as 
the land with the buildings upon it, to which they are attached, 
and that the land with the buildings upon it would rise to double 
its former value when cultivated by free men, it follows that the 
land and buildings alone would be worth as much then, that is, 
when worked by free labourers, as the land, buildings, and slaves 
together are worth at the present time. 

I have now, I think, pretty well canvassed the subject, and 
I shall therefore hasten to a conclusion. And first, I ask the West 
Indians, whether they think that they will be allowed to carry on 
their present cruel system, the arbitrary use of the whip and the 
chain, and the brutal debasement of their fellow T -creatures,ybr ever. 
I say, No ; I entertain better hopes of the humanity and justice of 
the British people. I am sure that they will interfere, and that 
when they once take up the cause, they will never' abandon it till 
they have obtained their object. And what is it, after all, that I 
have been proposing in the course of the preceding pages ? two 
things only, viz. that the laws relating to the slaves may be revised 
by the British parliament, so that they may be made (as it was 
always intended) to accord zvith,ax\d not to be repugnant to } the prin- 
ciples of the British constitution, and that, when such a revision 
shall have taken place, the slaves may be put into a state of prep a- 
rationfor emancipation ; .and for such an emancipation only as may 
be compatible with the joint interests of the master and the slave. 
Is there any thing unreasonable in this proposition ? Is it unreason- 
able to desire that those laws should be repealed, which are con- 
trary to the laws of God, or that the Africans and their descen- 
dants, who have the shape, image, intellect, feelings, and affections 
of men, should be treated as human beings? 

The measure then, which I have been proposing, is not unreason- 
able. I trust it would not be injurious to the interests of the West 
Indians themselves. These are at present, it is said, in great di- 
stress ; and so they have been for years ; and so they will still be 
(and moreover they will be getting worse and worse) so long as 
they continue slavery. How can such a wicked, such an ill-framed 
system succeed ? Has not the Almighty in his moral government 
of the world stamped a character upon human actions, and given 
such a turn to their operations, that the balance should be ulti- 
mately in favour of virtue? Has he not taken from those, who act 
wickedly, the power of discerning the right path? or has he not so 
confounded their faculties, that they are for ever frustrating their 
own schemes? It is only to know the practice of our planters to 
be assured, that it will bring on difficulty after difficulty, and loss 
after loss, till it will end in ruin. If a man were to sit down and 



to 'try to invent a ruinous system of agriculture, could he devise 
one more to his mind than that which they have been in the habit 
of using ? Let us look at some of the more striking parts of this 
system. The first that stares us in the face, is the unnatural and 
destructive practice of forced labour. Here we see men work- 
ing without any rational stimulus to elicit their exertions, and 
therefore they must be followed by drivers with whips in their 
hands. Well might it be said by Mr. Botham to the Committees 
of Privy-council and House of Commons, " Let it be considered, 
how much labour is lost by the persons overseeing the forced la- 
bourer, which is saved when lie works for his own profit;" and, 
notwithstanding all the vigilance and whipping of these drivers, I 
have proved that the slaves do more for themselves in an after- 
noon, than in a whole day when they work for their masters. It 
was doubtless the conviction \haX. forced labour zvas unprofitable, 
as well as that there would be less of human sufferings which made 
Mr. Steele take away the whips from his drivers, as the very first step 
necessary in his improved system, or as the sine qua non without 
which such a system could not properly be begun ; and did not 
this very measure alter the face of his affairs in point of profit in 
three-years after it had been put into operation? And here it must 
be observed, that, if ever emancipation should be begun by our 
planters, this must be (however they may dislike to part with arbi- 
trary power) as much a first step with them as it was with Mr. 
Steele. Forced labour stands at the head of the catalogue of those 
nuisances belonging to slavery, which oppose the planter's gain. It 
must be removed before any thing else can be done. See what 
mischiefs it leads to, independently of its want of profit. It is im- 
possible that forced labour can be kept up from day to day with- 
out injury to the constitution of the slaves ; and if their health is in- 
jured, the property of their masters must be injured also. Forced 
labour, again, sends many of them to the sick-houses. Here is, at 
any rate, a loss of their working time. But it drives them also oc- 
casionally to run away, and sometimes to destroy themselves. 
Here again is a loss of their working time and of property into the 
bargain. Forced labour, then, is one of those striking parts in the 
West Indian husbandry, in which we see a constant source of loss 
to those who adopt it ; and may we not speak, and yet with truths 
as unfavourably of some of the other striking parts in the same sy- 
stem? What shall we say, first, to that injurious disproportion of 
the articles of croppage with the wants of the estates, which makes 
little or no provision of food for the labourers (the very first to be 
cared for), but leaves these to be fed by articles to be bought three 
thousand miles off* in another country, let the markets there be ever 
so high, or the prices ever so unfavourable, at the time? What 
shall we say, again, to that obstinate and ruinous attachment to old 



customs, in consequence of which even acknowledged improve- 
ments are almost forbidden to be received? How generally has 
the introduction of the plough been opposed in the West Indies, 
though both the historians of Jamaica have recommended the use 
of it, and though it has been proved that one plough with two sets 
of horses to relieve each other, would turn up as much land in a 
day, as one hundred Negroes could with their hoes! Is not the 
hoe also continued in earthing up the canes there, when Mr. Bo- 
tham proved, more than thirty years ago, that two men would do 
more with the East Indian shovel at; that sort of work in a day, 
than ten Negroes with the former instrument? So much for wk- 
projitable instruments of husbandry ; a few words now on unpro- 
Jitahle modes of employment. It seems, first, little less than infa** 
tuation, to make JNegroes carry baskets of dung upon their heads, 
basket after basket, to the field. 1 do not mention this so much 
as an intolerable hardship upon those who have to perform it, as 
an improvident waste of strength and time. Why are not horses, 
or mules, or oxen, and carts or other vehicles of convenience, used 
oftener on such occasions? I may notice also that cruel and most 
disadvantageous mode of employment of making JNegroes collect 
grass for the cattle, by picking it by the hand blade by blade. Are 
no artificial grasses to be found in our islands, and is the existence 
of the scythe unknown there? But it is of no use to dwell longer 
upon this subject. The whole system is a ruinous one from the 
beginning to the end. And from whence does such a system arise? 
It has its origin in slavery alone. It is practised no where but in 
the land of ignorance and slavery. Slavery indeed, or rather the 
despotism which supports slavery, has no compassion, and it is 
one of its characteristics never to think oj sparing the sinews of the 
wretched creature called a slave. Hence it is slow to adopt helps, 
with which a beneficent Providence has furnished us, by giving 
to man an inventive faculty for easing his burthens, or by submit- 
tincr the beasts of the field to his dominion and his use, and it flies 
to expedients which are contrary to nature and reason. How 
then can such a system ever answer? Were an English farmer to 
have recourse to such a system, he would not be able to pay his 
rent for a single year. If the planters then are in distress, it is their 
own fault. They may, however, thank the abolitionists that they are 
not worse off than they are at present. The abolition of the slave 
trade, by cutting off the purchase of new slaves, has cut off one cause 
of their ruin* ; and it is only the abolition of slavery which can yet 
save them. Had the planters, when the slave trade was abolished, 
taken immediate measures to meet the change ; had they then re- 

* Dickson's Mitigation of Slavery, p. 213, where it is proved that bought 
slaves never refund their purchase-money to their owners. 



vised their laws and substituted better ; had they then put their 
slaves into a state of preparation for emancipation, in what a diffe- 
rent, that is, desirable situation would they have been at this mo- 
ment! In fact, nothing can save them, but the abolition of slavery 
on a wise and prudent plan. They can no more expect, without 
it, to meet the present low prices of colonial produce, than the Bri- 
tish farmer can meet the present low prices of grain, unless he can 
have an abatement of rent, tithe, and taxation, and unless his present 
poor rates can be diminished also. Take away, however, from the 
planters the use and practice of slavery, and the hour of their rege- 
neration would be begun. Can we doubt that Providence would 
then bless their endeavours, and that salvation from their difficulties 
would be their portion in the end ? 

It lias appeared, 1 hope, by this time, that what I have been 
proposing is not unreasonable, and that, so far from being injurious 
to the interests of the planters, it would be highly advantageous to 
them. 1 shall now show, that I do not ask for the introduction 
of a more humane system into our Colonies al a time when it would 
he improper to grant it ; or that no fair objection can be raised 
against the present moment, as the Jit era from whence the measures 
in contemplation should commence. There was, indeed, a timo- 
when the planters might have offered something like an excuse for 
the severity of their conduct towards their slaves, on the plea that 
the greater part of them then in the colonies where African-born 
or strangers, and that cargoes were constantly pouring in, one 
after the other, consisting of the same sort of beings, or of stubborn 
ferocious people, never accustomed to work, whose spirits it was ne- 
cessary to break, and zchose necks to force down to the yoke ; and 
that this could only be effected by the whip, the chain, the iron 
collar, and other instruments of the kind. But now no such plea 
can be offered. It is now sixteen years since the slave trade was 
abolished by England, and it is therefore to be presumed, that no 
new slaves have been imported into the British colonies within 
that period. The slaves, therefore, who are there at this day, 
must consist either of Africans, whose spirits must have been long 
ago broken, or of Creoles born in the cradle and brought up in 
the trammels of slavery. What argument then can be produced 
for the continuation of a barbarous discipline there? And we are 
very glad to find that two gentlemen, both of whom we have had 
occasion to quote before, bear us out in this remark. Mr. Steele, 
speaking of some of the old cruel laws of Barbadoes, applies them 
to the case before us in these words: — " As, according to Llgon's 
account, there were not above two-thirds of the island in planta- 
tions in the year 1650, we must suppose that in the year irjSB 
the great number of Ajrican-born slaves brought into the planta- 
tions in chains, and compelled to labour by the terrors of corporal 



punishment, might have made it appear necessary to enact a tern 
porary law so harsh as the statute No. 82; but when the great 
majority of the Negroes were become vernacular, born in the island, 
naturalized by language, and familiarised by custom, did not po- 
licy as well as humanity require them to be put under milder con- 
ditions, such as were granted to the slaves of our Saxon ancestors ?Y 
Colonel JVialenfant speaks the same sentiments. In defending his 
plan, which he offered to the French Government for St. Do- 
mingo in 1814, against the vulgar prejudice, that "where you 
employ Negroes you must of necessity use slavery," he delivers 
himself thus: — "*If a ll the Negroes on a plantation had not 
been more than six months out of Africa, or if they had the same 
ideas concerning an independent manner of life as the Indians oy 
the savages of Guiana, 1 should consider my plan to be impracti- 
cable, 1 should then say that coercion would be necessary: but 
ninety-nine out of every hundred Negroes in St. Domingo are 
aware that they cannot obtain necessaries without work. They 
know that it is their duty to work, and they are even desirous of 
working; but the remembrance of their cruel sufferings in the 
time of slavery renders them suspicious." We may conclude, then, 
that if a cruel discipline was nut necessary in the years 1790 and 
1?94, to which these gentlemen allude, when there must have 
been some thousands of' newly imported Africans both in St. Do- 
mingo and in the English colonies, it cannot be necessary now.- 
when there have been no importations into the latter far fifteen 
ijears" There can be no excuse, then, for the English planters for 
not altering their system, and this immediately. It is, on the -other 
hand, a great reproach to them, considering the quality and cha- 
racter of their slaves, that they should not of themselves have come 
forward on the subject before this time. 

Seeing then that nothing has been done where it ought, it is the 
duty of the abolitionists to resume their labours. If through the 
medium of the abolition of the slave trade they have not accom- 
plished, as they expected, the whole of their object, they have no 
alternative but to resort to other measures, or to attempt by consti- 
tutional means, under that Legislature which has already sanc- 
tioned their eflbrts, the mitigation of the cruel treatment of the 
Negroes, with the ultimate view of extinguishing, in due time and 
in a suitable manner, the. slavery itself. Nor ought any time to be 
lost in making such an attempt; for it is a melancholy fact, that 
there is scarcely any increase of the slave population in our islands 
at the present moment. What other proof need we require of 
the severity of the slavery there, and of the necessity of its mitU 
gation? Severe punishments, want of sufficient food, labour ex- 

* P. 125. 



tracted by the whip, and a system of prostitution, conspire, almmt 
as much as ever, to make inroads upon the constitutions of, the 
slaves, and to prevent their increase. And let it be remembered 
here, that any former defect of this kind was supplied by importa- 
tions ; but that importations are nozv ■ unlawful. Unless, there- 
fore, the abolitionists interfere, and that soon, our West Indian 
planters may come to Parliament and say, " We have now tried 
your experiment. It has not answered. You must therefore 
give us leave to go again to the coast of Africa for slaves." There 
is also another consideration worthy of the attention of the aboli- 
tionists, viz. that a public' attempt made in England to procure the 
abolition of slavery would very much promote their original ob- 
ject, the cause of the abolition of the slave trade ; for foreign 
courts have greatly doubted our sincerity as to the latter measure, 
and have therefore been very backward in giving us their assist- 
ance in it. If England, say they, abolished the slave trade from 
moral motives, how happens it that she continues slavery 1 ? But if 
this public attempt were to succeed, then the abolitionists would 
see their wishes in a direct train for completion : for if slavery were 
to fall in the British islands, this event would occasion death in a 
given time, and without striking any further blow, to the execrable 
trade in every part of the world ; because those foreigners, who 
should continue slavery, no longer able to compete in the markets 
with those who should employ free men, must abandon the slave 
trade altogether. 

But here perhaps the planters will say, " What right have the 
people of England to inte* f ere with our property, which would be 
the case if they were to attempt to abolish slavery ?" The people 
of England might reply, that they have as good a right as you, 
the planters, have to interfere with that most precious of all pro- 
perty, the liberty of your slaves, seeing that you hold them by no 
right that is not opposed to nature, reason, justice, and religion. 
The people of England have no desire to interfere with your p?o- 
perty, but with your oppression. It is probable that your pro-* 
perty would be improved by the change. But, to examine this 
right more minutely, I contend, first, that they have always a 
right to interfere in behalf of humanity and justice wherever their 
appeals can be heard. I contend, secondly, that they have a 
more immediate right to interfere in the present case, because 
the oppressed persons in question, living in the British dominions 
and under the British Government, are their fellozo subjects. 
I contend again, that they have this right upon the ground that 
they are giving you, the West Indians, a monopoly for their sugar, 
by buying it from you exclusively at a much dearer rate than they 
can get it from other quarters. Surely they have a rioht to sav 
to you, as customers for your produce, Change your system and 



We will continue to deal with you : but if you will not change it, 
we will buy our sugar elsewhere, or we will not buy sugar at all. 
The East Indian market' is open to us, and we prefer sugar that 
is not stained with blood. Nay, we will petition Parliament to 
take off the surplus duty with which East Indian sugar is loaded 
on your account. What superior claims have you either upon Par- 
liament or upon us, that you should have the preference r As to the 
East .Indians, they are as much the subjects of the British empire as 
yourselves. As to the East India Company, they support all 
their establishments, both civil and military, at their own expense. 
They come to our Treasury for nothing; while you, with naval 
stations, and an extraordinary military force kept up for no other 
purpose than to keep in awe an injured population, and with heavy 
bounties on the exportation of your sugar, put us to such an ex- 
pense as makes us doubt whether your trade is worth having on its 
present terms. They, the East India Company, again, have been 
a blessing to the Natives with whom they have been concerned. 
They distribute an equal system of law and justice to all without 
respect of persons. They dispell the clouds of ignorance, super- 
stition, and idolatry, and carry with them civilization and liberty 
wherever they go. You, on the other hand, have no code of 
justice but for yourselves. You deny it to those who cannot help 
themselves. You hinder liberty by your cruel restrictions on ma- 
numission ; and dreading the inlet of light, you study to perpetuate 
ignorance and barbarism. Which then of the two competitors 
has the claim to preference by an English Parliament and an 
English people ? It may probably soon become a question with the 
latter, whether they will consent to pay a million annually more for 
West India sugar than for other of like quality, or, which is the 
same thing, whether they will allow themselves to be taxed annually 
to the amount of a million sterling to support West Indian slavery. 

I shall now conclude by saying, that I leave it, and that 1 re- 
commend it, to others to add to the light which I have endeavoured 
to furnish on this subject, by collecting new facts relative to Eman- 
cipation and the result of it in other parts of the world, as well as 
relative to the superiority of free over servile labour, in order that 
the West Indians may be convinced, if possible, that they would 
be benefited by the change of system which I propose. They 
must already know, both by past and present experience, that the 
ways of unrighteousness are not profitable. Let them not doubt, 
when the Almighty has decreed the balance in favour of virtuous 
actions, that their efforts under the new system will work together 
for their good, so that their temporal redemption may be at hand. 


Printed by Richard Taylor, 

Shoe-Lane, London.